By Martin Sadongdong
Major General Cirilito Sobejana, incoming commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), is seeking to end the exploits of the Abu Sayyaf Group before the end of 2019 upon the orders of President Duterte.
Sobejana, incumbent commander of the Sixth Infantry (Kampilan) Division, was chosen to be the next WestMinCom commander after Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega opted for early retirement next week.
“That is our objective because no less than the President gave the guidance to us to end the Abu Sayyaf before the end of the year,” Sobejana said in Filipino.
“That’s [why] we deployed all forces in Sulu for that purpose without creating any vaccum in any areas within the Western Mindanao Command,” he added.
Sobejana, an awardee of the top military honor for courage — the Medal of Valor, believes that the plan to end the Abu Sayyaf Group is “feasible.”
“[It is] feasible especially now that we see the amount of cooperation among local government units, the civilian authorities and even the community as a whole. They are tired of the menace, tired of terrorism that’s why they are very supportive to us,” he noted.
Early this year, Duterte ordered the military to “crush” the Abu Sayyaf Group following the deadly bombing at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on January 27.
The bombing incident which claimed 23 lives and resulted in the injury of over 100 others, was claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) through its local counterpart Abu Sayyaf.
“I ordered you to destroy the organization. I’m ordering you now: pulpugin ninyo ang Abu Sayyaf by whatever means (pulverize the Abu Sayyaf by whatever means),” Duterte was quoted as saying on January 28.
The appointment papers of Sobejana were yet to be released. However, he said the turnover of command will take place on June 28, two days ahead of the retirement of Dela Vega.
Aside from eliminating the Abu Sayyaf and other threat groups in Mindanao, Sobejana said he plans to continue the security template that he installed at the 6ID to effectively manage the WestMinCom.
“I will continue the security template that I have started with the extended period of my exposure in this area, fighting against all odds particularly the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Daulah Islamiyah,” he stated.
“We gained a lot of good lessons, allowing us to come up with a very responsive security template which we will follow. As to the details of that template, we don’t want to divulge that because it’s confidential in nature,” he explained.