MANILA - A former rebel soldier who was part of a group that called for military reforms during the Marcos dictatorship will assume today as chief of the 125,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, an erstwhile member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), will succeed his classmate Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, who will retire from the service also today.
President Aquino will preside over the change of command ceremony to be held at the military’s parade ground in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
A division-size parading contingent composed of two brigades and three battalions will join the testimonial review in honor of Bautista.
The contingent will consist of about 2,000 soldiers and cadets from the Armed Forces General Headquarters, Army, Navy, Air Force, the Peacekeeping Operations Center and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
The military, however, might skip the parade and hold the ceremony indoors if the weather condition does not improve.
A member of PMA class 1981, Catapang is the outgoing Armed Forces vice chief of staff, the second highest officer in the military.
He also served as the commander of the Tarlac-based Northern Luzon Command, the 7th Infantry Division, and the 703rd Infantry Brigade.
“He (Catapang) is a professional officer. He has served in all levels of command within the Philippine Army and within the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of the military’s public affairs office.
“We are confident that he will bring the Armed Forces of the Philippines to greater heights,” he added.
As the 45th AFP chief, Catapang will be faced with the task of addressing internal threats like communist rebellion and Islamic extremism while securing the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea.
In an earlier interview, Bautista said his successor should be passionate and dedicated as he would be in for tremendous responsibilities.
“Trying to prevent conflict and at the same time living up to our mandate of protecting the people and the state and ensuring the integrity of our national territory, these are the challenges that a chief of staff and the entire armed forces face,” the outgoing military chief said.
Bautista is credited as the main proponent of security plan Bayanihan, which aims to resolve the country’s internal security problems by 2016.