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Current Davao military commander appointed AFP chief

Davao’s current top military officer will be the new head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lieutenant General Felimon Santos Jr., who is currently the head of the Panacan-based Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), will assume the post to be vacated by Gen. Noel Clement who retires on Sunday after serving as the military chief for less than four months.

President Rodrigo Duterte will preside the command turnover ceremony at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Saturday.

Santos, a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986, is expected to serve the military until Aug. 3, 2020, when he turns 56 years old.

The incoming AFP chief assured to conduct relentless operations to destroy the communist insurgency, neutralizing terror groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) terror network, support the police and anti-drug agencies in the campaign against illegal narcotics.

In a text message to Mindanao Times, Santos said “in my stint as commander of Eastern Mindanao Command (the whole year of 2019), 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 that resulted in the improved general security landscape in our area of responsibility.”

As EastMinCom chief since January 2019, Santos is in charge of battling communist rebels in the Davao, Soccsksargen, and Caraga regions.

For the past year, he said EastMinCom operatives killed 56 rebels and arrested 85 others. A total of 740 regular NPA members and 5,207 members of the underground mass organization surrendered.

Santos said the military operations led to the destruction of rebels’ formation and “significantly” limited their atrocities.

“We owe this to the initiative and support of the different Local Government Units and their chief executives, national government agencies, non-government organizations, academe, business sector, religious sector, the communities, and other partners and stakeholders,” Santos said.

He is hoping that he can replicate the same feat during his term as AFP head.

“We hope that this relationship, teamwork, and cohesiveness we have developed will continue to work this year,” the army general said.

Santos said he will strictly be implementing programs under Executive Order 70, President Duterte’s order that seeks to institute a “whole of government” approach in addressing communist insurgency. He also supports the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict to address the non-military dimension of insurgency.

“We will not allow them (armed groups) to destroy the peace gains we have achieved,” he further said.

Before assuming the EastMinCom top post, Santos was the commander of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija from October 2017.

Santos, a native of San Rafael in Bulacan, began his career as an officer in the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion in Mindanao.

The Army called Santos an “expert intelligence officer,” having been the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2, from November 2016 to October 2017.

According to the AFP, Santos is a “seasoned combat officer” and was awarded with numerous service award medals and commendations.

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