Armed Forces of the Philippines

Gilbert Gapay is next AFP chief

Rambo Talabong

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Gilbert Gapay is next AFP chief
(UPDATED) Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay will serve only for 6 months as he is scheduled to retire in February 2021

(UPDATED) Army chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay is the next chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In a letter dated Tuesday, July 28, by President Rodrigo Duterte to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, he said he has chosen Gapay as his next AFP chief.

“I wish to inform you, per your letter-endorsement and in accordance with the recommendation of the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Chairman, AFP Board of Generals, pursuant to Republic Act No. 8186 as amended, the designation of Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay as Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Duterte said.

Gapay will succeed outgoing AFP chief General Felimon Santos Jr on August 3. He will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on February 4, 2021 – and this gives him only a 6-month term as AFP boss.

In a statement, Gapay thanked Duterte for “giving me the opportunity to lead the Armed Forces of the Philippines in this trying time in our nation’s history.” 

He vowed that the military will continue to uphold its mandate to secure the country against both internal and external threats and to help communities overcome the pandemic.

AFP not your enemy

“In doing so, we will remain accountable to the Filipino people,” he said.

Gapay gave assurances that the military “is a far cry from the grim picture being painted by those against the Anti-Terrorism Law.” He stressed: “Your AFP is your protector – not your enemy.” 

As Army chief and former chief of the Southern Luzon Command, Gapay was instrumental in implementing Duterte’s Executive Order No 70, which spells out the government’s strategy to end armed communist conflict through a local approach.

Calabarzon’s Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was the first regional task force created following the EO.

The Duterte connection

Gapay also had the chance to serve in the President’s hometown, Davao City. In December 2016, he became Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander. During this time, he led the Joint Task Force Haribon, in charge of securing the Mega Davao area after the September 2016 bombing of the Roxas night market.

He was also on top of security at the launch of the Philippines’ chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held in Davao City in 2017.

Gapay was topnotcher of his class at the Philippine Military Academy, the powerful Sinagtala Class of 1986. His classmates include former police chiefs Ronald dela Rosa, Oscar Albayalde, and PNP officer-in-charge Archie Gamboa. – with a report from Pia Ranada/Rappler

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.