The Navy leadership has tapped a combat-tested senior officer to head the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) where Abu Sayyaf terrorists and rogue elements of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are known to be operating.
Military Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino said that Commodore Orwen Cortez was designated as acting commander of the NFWM, which has jurisdiction over naval operations in the provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga Peninsula.
Dolorfino said Cortez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1979, formally took over the NFWM last Nov. 4. Cortez was the erstwhile commander of the Naval Forces Western Command.
Cortez was known for leading his forces in assaulting Matanggue Island in Balabac, Palawan in August of 2009 when lawless elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Abdullah Abdurajak, alias Pa Guro, staged atrocities against civilians in the area.
The Navy operations led to the killing of at least 10 MNLF rebels, including Abdurajak.
The NFWM was originally assigned to Rear Adm. Feliciano Angue but was recalled after the disgruntled Navy officer publicly criticized alleged “prostitution” of the military promotions system. He was subsequently put under investigation and was held on a floating status pending the result of the Navy probe.
The NFWM was subsequently taken over by 1st Marine Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Eugenio Clemen on a concurrent capacity.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said Cortez was tapped by the Navy leadership in an acting capacity.
Meanwhile, Dolorfino is formally retiring from the military service last Wednesday but his replacement as Wesmincom chief has yet to be announced.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo David Jr. earlier had said the military’s Board of Generals has already convened for its recommended shortlist.
David said the post is up for grabs for Navy, Marines and Army officers.
Earlier, military sources feared that an Army officer might be appointed to the post following the pull out of the 1st Marine Brigade from Basilan and replaced by elements of the Army’s Special Operations Command.