fix articles 26452, habacon
AFP Southcom split into 2 commands (tags)
Southcom split into 2 commands By Jaime Laude The Philippine Star 08/27/2006 The military’s biggest troop contingent in Mindanao will be deactivated and split into two separate commands effective today. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said the Southern Command under Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon will be divided into the Western Mindanao Command and the Eastern Mindanao Command. Esperon stressed the division of the Southcom into two military units is for a more effective control and deployment of troops in the whole of Mindanao. Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo has been designated as first commander of the Western Mindanao Command that will be based at the Southcom headquarters at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City. On the other hand, the Eastern Mindanao Command to be based in Davao City will be under the command of Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Obaniana. Esperon explained the split of Southcom is necessary for better control of the troops and to put more focus on the fight against the communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in the eastern part of Mindanao, and the fight against the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups in the western part of the region. Southcom, which has responsibility over the whole of Mindanao, is composed of three Army divisions, two joint task forces, two naval forces, a tactical operations wing of the Air Force, two elite Special Forces battalions and one company of troops from the Light Reaction Battalion. Esperon said there would be some redeployment of troops where their presence is mostly needed. The Southcom comprises roughly 60 percent of the 120,000-strong military, all under its administrative and operational control. "These two targets (Islamic extremists and communist rebels) are very important that’s why we assigned two commanders there. With the split, we believe that the commanders will be more focused," Esperon said. Esperon said the decision to split Southcom into two units is a strategic move to sustain the pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The decision, however, left Habacon with no unit to command. Habacon, one of the remaining so-called "Garci generals," said the deactivation of the Southcom will mean the closure of his military career. He opted to retire early, with only a few days left on his active service before his mandatory retirement on Sept. 9 on reaching the age of 56. "He (Habacon) decided to retire early due to personal reasons. He may have planned it earlier," Southcom spokesman Col. Susthenes Valcorza explained yesterday. Esperon will preside over the deactivation of Southcom today, on the same occasion where Habacon will be given retirement honors, Valcorza said. When asked if the splitting of the Southcom prompted Habacon to seek early retirement, Valcorza replied: "It could be one of the reasons." Habacon was among the generals mentioned in the controversial wiretap recordings that became an issue against President Arroyo. Aside from Habacon, among the generals mentioned to have helped in the rigging of the results of the May 10, 2004 elections in Mindanao include retired Lt. Gen. Roy Kyamko, former Southcom chief and retired Marine Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, along with Esperon. Kyamko has already retired when the tapes were leaked in June 2005. Gudani retired in October that same year, days after he exposed alleged cheating operations in Central Mindanao before a Senate investigation. A military fact-finding board headed by Navy Chief Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga cleared the four generals of involvement in the alleged cheating operations.