Sunday, August 27, 2006

Southern Command Chief Vows Out Of Service

Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon during a lunch break with soldiers in Zamboanga City Sunday 27 August 2006. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Aug) Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon is to relinquish his post today to Army Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, who will take over as commander of the new Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City.

Habacon retires on 28 September after serving more than a year as Southern Command chief. The Southern Command, formed in May 1976 to address the growing Moro insurgency in Mindanao, will be divided into two.

The Armed Forces split the Southern Command into Western Mindanao Command and the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City to effectively address the insurgency and terrorism problems in the restive region.

"This is purely tactical and operational and the split of the Southern Command into two is a big boost to the government anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism campaign in the southern Philippines," Habacon told the Mindanao Examiner on Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of military forces in Basilan island, was reported to be Cedo's replacement as chief of the Army's First Infantry Division in Zamboanga del Sur province.

Habacon on Sunday met with military officers and had lunched with soldiers at the Southern Command. "It was both happy and sad. We are happy because we are together for the last time with the general, but we are also sad because he is retiring and will leave us soon. He is a good man and like a father to all of us," said Army Pvt. Joselito Pascual.

Habacon, who turns 56 years old next month, is the last commander of the 30 year-old Southern Command, the largest military installation outside Manila. "This is the call of the times and as the saying goes, all have their end and so Southcom has to be deactivated to give way two new military bases. That is the best way to defeat terrorism and insurgency," he said.

The general was largely credited for the capture of many Abu Sayyaf militants and leaders of the New People's Army in the southern Philippines and it was during his term that the Southern Command embarked on a massive medical and humanitarian mission in partnership with the US military forces.

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