June 23, 2018, 10:19 am
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Former defense chief Abat, 92

FORMER defense secretary, former Army chief, and World War II veteran Fortunato Abat died Wednesday night at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

Abat, 92, is survived by his wife, Corazon, children, and grand children, and great grand children.

His remains lie in state at the Loyola Chapels in Commonwealth,  Quezon City and will be ready for public viewing starting today. He will be laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City.

“In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate a contribution to the Hero Foundation, Inc., a cause close to the heart of Gen. Abat,” his family said in a statement.

Hero Foundation provides educational support to orphans of soldiers killed or incapacitated in line of duty. Based in Camp Aguinaldo, the foundation was organized in 1988 by then President Corazon Aquino.

Abat served as defense secretary from Sept. 16, 1997 to June 30, 1998, during the time of President Fidel Ramos. 

He was designated by President Ferdinand Marcos as Army chief on March 28, 1976 and served until March 28, 1981 when he retired with the rank of major general.

Abat was the Army chief when one of his sons, 2Lt. Tito Abat, died in a clash with communist rebels in Eastern Samar in 1978. The younger Abat was then a fresh graduate of the Philippine Military Academy.

DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Abat will be given full military honors.

“The Department of National Defense mourns the loss of former Defense Secretary and Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Fortunato Abat,” he also said.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva described Abat was “one of the best generals of the Philippine Army while in the military service.”

“He is a known fine officer and a gentleman... He is very much respected by our organization because of his accomplishment and legacy that he has provided for the Philippine Army,” said Villanueva.

AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia extended the military’s “sincere and heart-felt condolences” to Abat’s family.

“His contributions to the AFP and the defense department as a unit commander, leader, and mentor serve as lasting legacy to the men and women he has worked with and guided all throughout his military and civilian career,” said Garcia.

“Noteworthy to mention are his various designations under different administrations that bespeak highly of his reputation as a public servant. The AFP will always be thankful for his service to the country and the Filipino people,” added Garcia.

Born on June 10, 1925 in San Juan, La Union, Abat entered the military service as a guerilla in April 1944 during the World War II. Years after the war, he entered the PMA where he graduated in 1951 and held various key positions, including Army chief and commander of the now-defunct Central Mindanao Command that figured in fierce battles with the Moro National Liberation Front.

He wrote the book titled “The CEMCOM story: The Day we nearly lost Mindanao” that detailed how the military controlled the separatist uprising, recovery of territories lost to the secessionists, and restoration of order in the 1970s. Abat also was also part of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea that was deployed to Korea during the Korean war in the 1950s.

He assumed several government positions after his retirement in 1981, including as ambassador to China until the EDSA revolution in February 1986, as administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, defense undersecretary, deputy director general at the National Security Council, president of the John Hay-Poro Point Development Corporation, and chairman of the Military Service Board during the term of President Benigno Aquino III. Abat also chaired government panels that negotiated with military and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

Abat was among the retired generals who played key role in the ouster of President Joseph Estrada in January 2001, leading to the rise of Arroyo to the presidency.

Abat later vacated his post at the John Hay-Poro Point and called for the resignation of Arroyo over charges of rigging the result of the 2004 elections. He was arrested by the PNP in December in 2005 and charged with sedition on suspicion that he was to head a transition government.
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