MANILA, July 10 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday challenged newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Hernando Delfin Carmelo Iriberri, to continue the work of his predecessors in raising the quality of service of the country’s military personnel, and help ensure that next year’s presidential election would be clean and fair.
“Alalahanin natin: Malapit na naman ang eleksiyon. Kasama sa inyong tungkulin ang pagsigurong magiging mapayapa at malinis ang pagpili ng ating mga kababayan ng susunod na pinuno. Sa ganitong paraan ninyo masusuklian ang suporta at pagkalingang ibinigay sa inyo ng mamamayang Pilipino, ang ating mga Boss,” he said in his speech during the AFP Change of Command ceremony, held in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The President lauded Iriberri’s excellent military record, which included a stint as commander of the Philippine Army’s 503rd Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, which was credited for the peaceful election in Abra province in 2013.
“Ang balita ko, kahit sino man sa mga nakasama niya sa misyon, training, at exercises ang tanungin ninyo, very good ang ibibigay na marka sa bago nating Chief of Staff. Mula nga noong platoon leader pa lamang siya, basta siya mismo ang nagmamando sa operasyon, walang casualty sa kanyang mga tropa. Noong 2013 elections naman, nakadestino ang kanyang brigade sa Abra. Sa ilalim ng kanyang pagbabantay at ng kanyang mga tauhan, sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay walang barangay na nagdeklara ng failure of elections sa Abra, at walang naitalang election-related violence sa lalawigan,” he said.
Meanwhile, in an open letter he read during the ceremony, General Iriberri extended his gratitude to every military personnel for “the untiring, selfless dedication that has become the hallmark of the Filipino soldier.”
“I write this letter of thanks to you, my dear soldier, because it has not been said often enough, it has not been shown nearly enough. I write to say thank you for doing a good job, and to say forward march and fight on; with peace, secure the future,” he added.
He laid down five priorities he wished to address during his term as AFP Chief of Staff — winning peace; continuing the transformation made in the Armed Forces; implementing national policies; preparing for the 2016 national election; and upgrading the capabilities of the AFP.
The new Chief of Staff also thanked the President for the modernization of the AFP.
“Sa tagal ng panahon, ngayon lang uli nakahawak at nakagamit ang inyong kasundaluhan ng mga bagong kagamitang pangdigma. Kaya dapat lamang na suklian namin ng katapatan at serbisyong walang katulad ang ating bayan,” Iriberri said.
Iriberri, who replaced Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., belongs to the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) Matikas Class of 1983.
Prior to his appointment as AFP chief, he served as the 56th Commanding General of the Philippine Army since February 2014.
Iriberri was commissioned in the AFP Regular Force in March 1983 after graduating from the PMA. Although he was an infantry man, he also served in other fields of the Army, such as in intelligence, public relations and staff functions, and international peace support operations.
In his almost 31 years of active service, he served as commander of the Task Group Panther “COMAG” of the First Scout Ranger Regiment in Central Mindanao from 1995 to 1996. The unit killed 10 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group during an encounter in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato in 1996, without sustaining any casualty on its side.
According to his profile, provided by the AFP, “he was instrumental in hastening the healing process” between the AFP and members of the Young Officers Union (YOU), the group of junior officers who prominently figured in the 1989 coup, the bloodiest launched against the Cory Aquino government.
Iriberri holds a Master’s degree in Management and Defense Studies from the University of Canberra in Australia. He is also a recipient of various awards — five Distinguished Service Stars Medals, an Outstanding Achievement Medal, two Gold Cross Medals and numerous Military Merit and Commendation Medals.
Iriberri is set to retire in April 2016. (PNA)