DAVAO ORIENTAL— The Commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion, Lt. Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, has urged the people at the grassroots level to participate on their intensified campaign to attain a just and lasting peace in conflict affected areas.
Lt. Col. Obligado, who was one of the guests during the ‘Kapihan sang Kapitolyo’ on March 27, said that they are conducting support operations since the first quarter of this year to defeat the CPP-NPA rebels, and prevent its resurgence and insulate unaffected areas to create conflict-resilient communities conducive for sustainable development. However, he stressed that all their efforts will be wasted if the people in the community will not cooperate.
Despite the fact that the AFP’s ratio to the NPA rebels is one is to a thousand, the military is persistently calling for the cooperation of the communities as the insurgents are persistently trying to regain their influence here. “They really want to recover Davao Oriental because they want the government to fail and at the same time they want to re-influence their previous mass bases,” Obligado said.
He added that the NPAs are specifically targeting ‘lumads’ or native Mandaya tribesmen to join their ranks. As of 2006-2015, 74% of those who surrendered to the government are ‘lumads’. The rebels are even more drawn to the province because of its highly agricultural lands. More than 70% of the recruited NPA members are farmers while 18% are laborers, said Obligado. These farmers and laborers joined the movement due to the promise of financial support of the lawless armed groups that their recruits have never received.
Obligado, however, said that residents under his area of jurisdiction which is the first district of Davao Oriental and one town of Surigao del Sur have been cooperating on the government’s peace efforts. “People no longer accept the CPP-NPA. The rebels are staying on their camps because they are not being accepted by the masses, otherwise they will be staying on the residents’ homes. Masses no longer support the NPAs, least give them food.”
He added that the civilians, especially those who have been victims of extortion, have started participating on their initiatives by filing a complaint. “They are giving information because they are aware that it is only one of the ways that the government can intervene and protect them. That is a good action because we cannot just arrest the perpetrators without warrant of arrest or any case filed against them.”
Meanwhile, Obligado stressed that barangay officials should also be empowered to perform their functions as the rebels have organize a shadow government that suppress the duly constituted officials. These organizations mislead people by exploiting issues related to education, economy, health, gender, youth, and agriculture.
“Their job is to sow hatred against the government. They want to isolate the people and split the government by providing problems instead of solutions. You will see them protesting in the streets, and they were called ‘progresibong grupo’ which is wrong because it should be ‘problemadong grupo”, Obligado said.
The whites also provide finance, logistics, propaganda, and technical and professional support.
As anchored on the Philippine Army’s strategic initiatives, addressing the root causes of insurgency is the key to attaining long lasting peace. “There should be a livelihood program in partnership with other agencies, particularly the Department of Agriculture”, he explained, citing the Nagkakaisang Lingkod-Bayan ng Davao Oriental Barangay Outreach Caravan, a flagship program of Governor Dayanghirang which brings different government services closer to the people.
“We should also protect the vulnerable sectors like the Indigenous Peoples, youth, women and farmers. Consequently, this will attract armed elements to return to the folds of the government and will build social pressure to compel the NPA to give up armed struggle,” he said.
Another constrain that needs to be addressed is the literacy rate especially of the youth, Obligado added. The youth has comprised the largest number of recruits, reaching 86% as of year 2006-2015. These minors, who are mostly aged fifteen to seventeen, are mostly third graders. “Many youth are lured to a free education in an unaccredited school,” he explained.
The battalion commander has also called on the media to help them on their intensified campaign against insurgency. “The role of the media here is important. We need your participation on this advocacy, to persuade the masses that rebellion is never an answer to their plight,” he added.
Lt. Col Obligado hopes that by the end of the year, the province will again be cleared from insurgency. He said that this will be achieved if the civilians, the local government and all sectors of the society work together with the AFP and the PNP. By Riza M. Golez/Photo by Eden Jhan Licayan