Lt. Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa, a former aide-de-camp to the late former President Corazon Aquino, has been named chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, replacing General Eduardo Oban Jr., who retires Tuesday at the age of 56, three Cabinet officials and two senior military officers disclosed Sunday.
It was Dellosa who implemented “Oplan Daybreak” that led to the rescue of American missionary Gracia Burnham and the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sabaya nine years ago in Mindanao.
President Benigno Aquino III is expected to announce Monday the appointment of Dellosa, the head of the Northern Luzon (Nolcom) Command, to the top AFP post when the Commander in Chief addresses the troops during turnover rites at the AFP general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Both Dellosa, who was born in Bacon, Sorsogon, and Oban, who is also from Sorsogon, belong to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1979.
“It’s Dellosa. He’s been the choice for some time now as far as I know,” a key Cabinet official said, speaking on condition that he not be identified as he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
The official said Dellosa was a great choice because of his reputation for “righting the wrongs” in the units he had led.
Another Cabinet official on Sunday night confirmed that Dellosa, described as mild-mannered and quiet, was the next AFP chief of staff.
“That’s what I hear unless there are changes at the last minute,” said the Cabinet official, who also did not want to be named for lack of authority to speak about the matter.
Still another Cabinet official, who is known to be close to the President, said Dellosa’s new appointment was “actually an open secret now within the AFP.”
Two military sources, both officers who serve under Dellosa’s command, said reports about the assumption of their commander to the top AFP post reached them on Sunday. They, however, declined to say how they got the report or who circulated the information.
Dellosa becomes the 43rd chief of staff of the 130,000-strong military in a formal change of command ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo Monday.
Malacañang deferred announcing the incoming AFP chief of staff until the day itself of the turnover ceremony, keeping most of those in the AFP in suspense.
When Mr. Aquino appointed then General Ricardo David in July 2010 and Oban on March 7, Malacañang made the announcement before the formal turnover.
A decorated Army Scout Ranger officer, Dellosa is a recipient of numerous awards topped by a Distinguished Service Star, two Wounded Personnel Medals, two Gold Cross Medals, 39 Military Merit Medals, six Bronze Cross Medal, Long Service Medal, Marksmanship Badge Expert and Outstanding Achievement Medal.
Dellosa was appointed chief of Nolcom, which is based in Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City, on July 22. As Nolcom chief, he commands all the military forces in northern and central areas of Luzon.
Before that, he was the commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal, that was responsible for the capture of top New People’s Army commander, Tirso Alcantara, on July 28, 2010.
He also served as deputy commander of the AFP Central Command based in Cebu City, among his many command posts.
From 1988 to 1992, Dellosa was group commander of the special reaction unit of the Presidential Security Group that defended Malacañang from a series of deadly coups d’etat.
He later became junior aide-de-camp to then President Corazon Aquino. The democracy icon took him as personal escort on critical occasions, including her peace pact with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army on Mt. Data in 1987.
Dellosa served as commanding officer of the 16th and 14th Scout Ranger (SR) Company, commandant of the SR Training School and commander of Task Group “Panther” from 1992 to 1997. He was commander of the 1st SR battalion in Basilan from 1997 to 1999.
As deputy task force commander and operations officer of Joint Task Force “Comet,” he implemented “Oplan Daybreak” that led to the rescue of Burnham from Abu Sayyaf bandits and the killing of Sabaya.
According to an officer, Dellosa sees “no victory” when the enemy suffers fatalities because in the aftermath, the killings “do more harm than good.”
The officer said Dellosa believed that using arms should be the last resort of any soldier. “He’s a soldier of peace,” the officer said.
From 2004 to 2007, Dellosa was the chief of staff of the 4th Infantry Division.
Then he served as deputy commander of the First Scout Ranger Regiment and concurrently group commander of special Task Group Sulu that was instrumental in the neutralization of Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Solaiman in January 2007.
Dellosa was named the PMA commandant of cadets in August 2007.
He underwent extensive military training as an infantry officer, intelligence officer, scuba diver, hostage rescuer, Scout Ranger and in airborne and antiterrorism courses.
After graduation from the PMA, Dellosa was assigned in Jolo, Sulu, where he fought Moro rebels for three years and earned the coveted Outstanding Achievement Award for Military Operations awarded by the PMA Alumni Association in 1988.
Dellosa was born in Sorsogon on Jan. 20, 1957, but grew up in Lucena City.
Oban will step down a day ahead of his mandatory retirement on Dec. 13.
Only the fifth Air Force general to be the AFP chief of staff, Oban assumed office on March 7 at the height of the pabaon scandal that exposed multimillion peso slush fund enjoyed by former top military officials.
He vowed to stamp out corruption in the military and made fiscal and logistics reforms the cornerstone of his term. He also promised to hold himself and all officials accountable for the proper use of funds in light of allegation that funds were diverted for cash gifts or pabaon of retiring top officials.
His focus was on reforms, peace, modernization and morale and welfare.