Rafael Ileto

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Rafael Manio Ileto (October 24, 1920 – June 19, 2003) was the 22nd Secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND) of the Philippines. He also served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and as Philippine Ambassador to Turkey, Iran, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.

Early years

Rafael Ileto was born on October 24, 1920 in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. He took up his primary education in his hometown, and finished his secondary education in Nueva Ecija High School in Cabanatuan City.[1]

Ileto then entered the University of the Philippines pursuing an Engineering degree for the first two years, but later entered the Philippine Military Academy in 1940. Topping his class in PMA, Ileto gained his appointment to the United States Military Academy in West Point, through the Foreign Cadet Program. He finished with the accelerated Class of 1943[1], along with prominent members such as Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, Maj. Gen. Harold Parfitt, Brig. Gen. Robert F. McDermott, and Gen. Bernard W. Rogers.

Military & Political career

Upon graduating from West Point, 2nd. Lt. Ileto entered the Infantry School for three months in Fort Benning, Georgia. From there he joined the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment in Camp San Luis Obispo, California,[2] which departed on September 19, 1943, to join the Pacific Theater of Operations - beginning with the New Guinea Campaign.[1]

In New Guinea, Lt. Ileto transferred to the famed Alamo Scouts of the Sixth United States Army. With the Alamo Scouts, Ileto saw action in southern Samar during the Battle of Leyte, and thereafter in the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945.[1]

On January 30, 1945, Lt. Ileto with the Alamo Scouts under the command of Lt. Col. Henry Mucci, successfully rescued 516 prisoners of war held by the Imperial Japanese Army's POW Camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.[3] This has become to date the most successful rescue mission of the United States Army, and is known as the Raid at Cabanatuan.

After the Liberation of Manila, Lt. Ileto married Olga Clemena at the Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while taking a short course for lower staff officers. He returned to the Philippines thereafter, and helped in rebuilding the postwar Philippine Military Academy.[1]

In 1947, he was deployed to Okinawa, and took on early retirement from the service in 1949.[1]

In 1950, he enlisted once more, with the Philippine Army this time, and was first assigned in the General Headquarters (GHQ). It was here that he met Gen. Alfonso Arellano again, whom Ileto acquainted during World War II. Both officers came with the idea to constitute a special forces unit in the same fashion as that of the Alamo Scouts. Gen. Arellano gave the task to Ileto to organize the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, which was established on November 25, 1950 at the Scout Ranger Training Unit (SRTU) in Fort Bonifacio. Capt. Ileto commanded the unit until 1955.[1][4]

From commanding the Scout Ranger Regiment, Capt. Ileto was designated as foreign affairs attaché to Saigon and Vientiane. After this diplomatic stint, he was assigned again to the GHQ J-2 Intelligence, as a staff officer. From there he was appointed as Operations Chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and served from 1959 to 1964.[1]

In 1965, he went back to the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth for further studies, and later joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College at Fort Bonifacio. Thereafter, he became Commanding General of the 1st Philippine C Zone, covering all provinces north of Manila before being promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2) in 1969.[1]

Col. Ileto returned to the United States to study under the Defense Resources Management Course at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1969. From there Brig. Gen. Ileto was appointed Commanding General of the Philippine Army, a post which he held until 1971.[1] When Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, Ileto was one of the few generals who opposed the President, losing favor for the next series of promotions in the patronage politics that has already begun in the promotion system in the AFP.[5][6][7]

In 1973, Ileto became Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFP, then promoted to Major General, then Vice Chief of Staff, then as a Lieutenant General from 1975 until his retirement in 1978.[6] Concurrent to this position, Gen. Ileto also served as the Philippine Ambassador to Iran and Turkey from 1975 to 1980, and to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos from 1980 to 1986.[1]

During the People Power Revolution, Amb. Ileto played as mediator between the camp of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and the opposition. Amb. Ileto was then appointed as Undersecretary of Defense by Pres. Corazon Aquino.

Upon the resignation of Juan Ponce Enrile after an alleged coup attempt against Pres. Corazon Aquino, Ileto was appointed as the Secretary National Defense on November 23, 1986. He resigned from this government position after a falling out with the President on January 21, 1988.[8]

Later life

On June 19, 2003, Ileto died at the Philippine Heart Center after a heart attack at the age of 82.[5] He was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on June 23 with full military honors.[6]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named DND
  2. Ileto, Reynaldo Clemena (2005). "Philippine Wars and the Politics of Memory". Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique. 13 (1): 215–235. doi:10.1215/10679847-13-1-215. ISSN 1067-9847. Retrieved 8 June 2011. So as we were group up, I got to know that my father, Rafael Ileto, had gone to West Point in 1940 and that he had been an officer in the first Filipino infantry regiment that was sent to liberate the Philippines from Japanese rule.
  3. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone's Remarks at the Commemoration of the Cabanatuan Rescue Mission of January 30, 1945 Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  4. Strike Musang's Home Page. Archived from the original on October 27, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-06-05..
  5. 5.0 5.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PhilStar
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Frialde, Mike, Ileto buried with honors at Libingan, Philippine Star, June 23, 2003
  7. Si, Andrea Lizares, Term Extension at all cost, December 7, 2009 Archived June 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Manila Defense Chief Quits And Ramos Is Named to Job

Further reading