Latest Stories

Bemedaled Wescom chief Sabban retires from military service


PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines—Know and protect your own backyard.

Newly retired Marine Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban did just in his last three years in active military service as the straightforward, no-nonsense chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (Wescom) based in Palawan.

As WesCom commander from 2010 up to Monday, when he reached the mandatory age retirement of 56, Sabban had directed 14,000 security operations in his area of responsibility.

Sabban said the bulk of these missions comprised “sovereignty patrols” at the height of the country’s territorial dispute with China over the Philippines’ regime of islands in the Spratlys.

“(With) those 14,000, I still feel that they were not as much as we thought we should have exerted in the patrolling of our borders. Now we have another threat, the southern border. It (sovereignty patrol) increases as threats to national security arise,” he said, referring to the ongoing conflict in Sabah after  the Sultanate of Sulu sent its ‘royal security forces’ to reclaim ownership over the North Borneo island.

In his speech at Monday’s turnover rites, AFP Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista cited Sabban’s strategy of combining “diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and socio political initiatives” in Palawan through partnerships with key local leaders.

The strategy resulted “in a shared concept of security that brings a quick and encompassing and coordinated response in the emerging security situation in the West Philippine Sea,” Bautista said.

Bautista also commended the Wescom for maintaining a “credible defense posture against the threats to our sovereign rights.”

Asked how he would explain to the public the concepts of national security and territorial defense as a civilian, Sabban said: “Simply that we should be aware of the extent of our backyard.”

Sabban noted that it used to be that “people were already in our backyard and nobody cared to ask them why they were there or to drive them out from our backyard.”

“This is important because like illegal settlers, the longer they stay there the bigger the problem that we will have to drive them away and eventually it might become legitimate for them to stay there,” Sabban said.

The Philippines lost Mischief Reef in the Spratlys to China in 1994, after the Asian superpower asserted its ownership over it. Mischief Reef is located some 130 miles from Palawan.

On Monday, China said it was sending its largest patrol ship, Yuzheng 312, to the West Philippine Sea to carry out a law enforcement mission.

This could well be the first test to Sabban’s successor, Marine Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, who assumed the post as Wescom commander on Monday

A military official told reporters that Philippine authorities have yet to monitor Yuzheng 312 in the country’s vicinity.

The official said protocols were in place should the Chinese ship venture into the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

“There are rules of engagement that we follow. If we monitor that a foreign vessel enters our EEZ, we report it to the Defense Department which informs the Foreign Affairs Department,” said the official, who requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Sabban said that facing up to China was one of the biggest challenges he had as Wescom’s commander.

“With our internal security operations, we were always superior in force but in territorial defense operations, we are very much inferior. Lakas ng loob lang,” Sabban said.

It was Guerrero’s third time to take over a position that Sabban vacated. He had earlier replaced Sabban as chief of the Joint Task Force Comet that went after Abu Sayyaf bandits and as commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps.

Guerrero said he would work with the stakeholders in Palawan, known as the country’s last frontier for its rich wildlife and natural resources, to maintain its security and peace and development objectives.

Bautista presented Sabban, whom he called “Sir,” with the latter’s collection of medals earned from his exploits in the battlefield and civil military operations. Sabban was the last member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’78 to retire. Bautista belonged to PMA Class ’81.

Sabban was also known to have taken part in attempts to overthrow the first Aquino administration in the 1980s.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Armed Forces of the Philippines , Juancho Sabban , Military , News , Philippine Army , Western Command

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  6. DOJ to NBI: Arrest Cedric Lee, 4 others
  7. Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it
  8. Estrada, Gigi Reyes denied access to evidence from other respondents
  9. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  10. DOJ orders arrest of Cedric Lee
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  3. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  4. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  5. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  • Classmates celebrating 60th birthday among missing in ferry sinking
  • Sports

  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • Marketplace