Commentary: 803rd Brigade as Northern Samar’s unrelenting peacekeepers
By Nene A. Manzanares
Catarman, Northern Samar (27 October) -- Adjudged as the “Best Tactical Brigade” of the 8th Infantry Division for the first and second quarters, the 803rd Infantry Brigade through the leadership of Col. Roland Rodriguez has rightfully earned the reputation of being unrelenting peacekeepers of Northern Samar.
Even before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo formally waged war against the armed enemies of the state, Col. Rodriguez, a few weeks after his installation as brigade commander said in a radio interview that they will pursue intensive combat operations in his area of coverage.
The brigade did just that. Leading its three battalions – the 34th Infanhry Battalion based in San Jorge, Samar, the 20th Infantry Battalion based in San Isidro, Northern Samar and the 63rd Infantry Battalion based in Brgy. Opong, Catubig, Northern Samar including its Reconnaissance Company, the brigade was able to reduce the number of enemy fighting fronts from four to two fronts. According to his former brigade executive officer Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce (now the commanding officer of a Task Force in Eastern Samar), this achievement is a result of combined strategies in good intelligence work, effective operations and working civil-military operations. Without this combination, the brigade’s tactical operations would not have been as effective, Ponce added.
The brigade has also acknowledged the role of the civilians as partners in development. This is the reason why it is determined to strengthen its civil military operations. It has in fact continued its project dubbed as Army Literacy Patrol System (ALPS) which earned consistent awards from the National Literacy Council. The project provides informal education to civilians who cannot read nor write. What is novel in this project is that military men serve as teachers especially in areas where insurgency is still strongly felt. In Northern Samar it is the 63rd Infantry Battalion which has made a significant mark in pursuing this project.
The project not only teaches the beneficiaries basic reading and writing skills but it likewise provides knowledge and skills on how to earn more income through livelihood programs. The Department of Education (Non formal Education), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and TESDA are effective partners in this development effort.
The “Peacekeepers” of Northern Samar therefore do not only wear their uniforms in confronting the enemy but they likewise use their uniforms in extending a hand of peace to members of the community who believe that development can only be realized through non violence and positive teamwork. (PIA – Northern Samar) [top]