The next Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff vowed to “destroy armed threats” while incorporating “non-military” solutions to the country’s insurgency problem.
Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., who serves as Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief, issued the statement hours after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the former’s appointment to succeed AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Noel S. Clement, who is set to step down on Saturday.
“As I assume for higher responsibility, I will be working and support the initiatives and programs under EO 70 and the established National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict to address the non-military dimension of insurgency,” Santos said in a media interview here.
Col. Ezra Balagtey, Eastmincom spokesperson, described Santos as adept in wide range peace and security programs not only in Mindanao but also in the whole country, having been assigned with AFP’s strategic offices dealing with intelligence, and civil-military operations.
Balagtey said Santos led the 11th Intelligence Service Unit and became the group commander of Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine Army.
“After his graduation in the Philippine Military Academy in 1986 he spent his junior years with the 39th Infantry Battalion, a unit deployed to various provinces in Mindanao,” Balagtey told Philippine News Agency.
He said Santos also was a former chief of operations of the Central Command in Visayas, commander of the Army’s 703rd Infantry Brigade in Central Luzon, battalion commander of the Army’s 63rd Infantry Battalion in Samar Province, and assistant division commander of 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Maguindanao.
“He also led the 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Laur, Palayan, Nueva Ecija prior to is assumption as Commander of Eastmincom. Aside from experience, Lt. Gen. Santos is also equipped with knowledge and skills gained from his schooling both local and abroad,” Balagtey said.
During Santos’ stint in Eastmincom, Balagtey said the command recorded a total of 740 regular New People’s Army (NPA) members who have surrendered, 85 were arrested, and 56 rebels were killed in encounters.
Balagtey added that a total of 5,207 members of the NPA’s Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) severed their ties with the communist terrorist group during Santos’ watch.
“In my stint as the commander of Eastmincom, we have been relentless and focused on our mandate of securing the communities and in contributing to government’s overall objective of ending the local communist armed conflict which resulted in the improved general security landscape in our area of responsibility,” Santos said.
“We owe this to the initiatives and support of the different Local Government Units and their Chief Executives, National and Local Government Agencies, Non-Government Organizations, Academe, Business Sector, Religious Sector, the communities, and other partners and stakeholders,” he added. (PNA)