Feature: Military ready for battle, but opts for development
by JMD Abangan
Davao City (8 November) -- They are determined to conquer their enemies, yet they set aside their guns as their last resort to allow inroads of development.
Brig. Gen Carlos Holganza, commanding general of the 1001st Infantry Brigade carries a mission for his command to create "an environment conducive to development".
Among the counter-insurgency measures, he listed down combat operation as the last necessary option.
"We are not here to destroy but to build," he said during the Kapihan sa Kapitolyo held at the Ceremonial Hall of the Provincial Capitol of Davao del Norte.
"I don't want our people to think that we are here just to fight. Kung kaya nato makuha ang kalambuan nga walay guerra, mas mayo. (If it is possible to achieve development without having to go into war, much better.)," he added.
With the creation of the Eastern Mindanao Command, military forces in Mindanao have been realigned, turning the former 404th Infantry Brigade into the 1001st Infantry Brigade tasked to counter insurgency in 35 municipalities belonging to the provinces of Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and the cities therein.
It also covers the rural areas of Davao City and the three municipalities of Berwela, Sta. Josefa and Loreto of Agusan del Norte.
The command is facing 11 fronts of the New People's Army (NPA), three Pulang Bagani companies under the command of Kumander Parago, and one Sub-Regional Guerilla Unit (SRGU). Holganza however failed to disclose the estimated number of enemies.
Despite the numerous NPA fronts to subdue, Holganza said with confidence that the "enemy is bound to lose,"
Looking at the international arena, Holganza explained that the communist ideology which NPAs have been so strongly hanging on to has been dead with the fall of the Berlin Wall and other circumstances that have left communism in the past.
"CPP NPA no longer has ideological-political model to present to the masses," Holganza said.
With no credible alternative on hand to win the people to their side, Holganza bared that the armed rebels "now resort to plain banditry," sowing fear and deception.
"But you can't fool people all the time, they will soon rise up against you," Holganza said of NPAs losing points.
Citing cases of deception, Holganza said NPAs are engaging into various propaganda activities spreading public dissatisfaction over governance.
"They depict government as inept yet they block all efforts of government to develop our countryside," he said.
Burning a number telecom companies satellite towers and harassing multinational companies are among the proofs he cited showing that the rebels are not really in favor of development to come into peripheral areas, despite their pro-poor and pro-labor claims.
He deplored NPA for asking revolutionary taxes which he labeled as an act of "plain and simple extortion." "This is the way of the bandits," he said.
While they put their guns aside, the 1001st Infantry Brigade gets preoccupied with doing special operations team (SOT) activities at the grassroot communities, not only offering basic services but also explaining what government has in store for the people.
The military command is also pushing development project in areas known to be infiltrated with the communist rebels.
"Our Engineering Brigade is set to build 30 school houses," he said.
As President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier this year pronounced an all-out campaign against insurgency, he called for public support to win the fight against it.
Holganza explained the campaign did not mean to literally go into war but to use a total government approach versus insurgency.
"Let's stand and be counted. Freedom is only for those who are willing to fight for it," he said.
He suggested parents to educate their children about the act of violence and deception of the NPAs.
Strengthening communities through building a local defense system can also work well against NPA threats.
As elections is fast coming up, Holganza urged political leaders to stand accountable to their constituents. "They should not be cow-towing with the NPAs," he said.
After citing all efforts put forward to fight insurgency, Holganza said "we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children." (PIA XI) [top]