Ang Kagitingan ng mga Sundalo sa Sultan Kudarat at Maguindanao

ANG KAGITINGAN  NG MGA SUNDALO NOONG DEKADA 70 ,  ANG 1ST MECHANIZED INFANTRY (MAAASAHAN) BRIGADE SA SULTAN KUDARAT AT MAGUINDANAO, AT SI PRESIDENTE RODRIGO DUTERTE

Ni Apolinario Villalaobos

 

Ang mga una kong naging kaibigang sundalo ay kabilang sa 12IB na naitalaga noong dekada 70, sa bayan ng Esperanza , Sultan Kudarat…. kainitan ng bakbakan sa pagitan ng “Black Shirts” at “Ilaga”.  Nasa kolehiyo ako pero nagtatrabaho na rin sa Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Naigawa ko pa ang mga kaibigan ko ng marching song na, “Ballad of the 12IB”. Noon ko unang naunawaan ang hirap na dinadanas nila para tumupad sa tungkulin na ang kapalit ay maliit na suweldo nang panahong yon.  At, yan ay sa kabila pa rin ng nararamdaman nilang pangamba araw-araw.

 

Kasama naming mga taga-DSWD ang ilan sa kanila bilang escort tuwing mamudmod kami ng relief goods sa mga evacuation center ng mga Kristiyano at Muslim. Nakita ko sila kung paanong makipagbiruan sa mga anak ng mga Muslim evacuees. Isang beses ay nakita ko ang isa sa kanilang nagbigay ng biscuit sa anak ng isang buntis na Muslim evacuee. Ang nabanggit na tanawing hindi ko makalimutan ang nag-udyok sa akin upang magsulat tungkol sa mga kagitingan ng mga sundalo noong nasa Manila na ako at nagtatrabaho  sa Philippine Airlines. Nalulungkot lang ako noon tuwing mabalitaan ko sa mga dating kasama sa DSWD ang pagkamatay sa bakbakan ng mga kaibigan naming mga batang-batang  sundalo.

 

Naulit ang pakikipagkaibigan ko sa mga sundalo noong 2018, nang makilala ko ang mga nakatalaga sa 1st Mechanized (Maaasahan) Brigade sa Camp Bienvenido M. Leono, Kalandagan, Tacurong City na noon ay nasa pamumuno ni BGen. Bob Dauz nang magdaos sila ng isang mahalagang okasyon. Nasundan  ito ng isang proyekto na isinagawa ng mga empleyado ng  Fitmart Mall – ang pagtanim ng mga puno sa paligid ng kampo.  Nakikiisa rin ang mga kasundaluhan ng nasabing kampo sa LGU ng Tacurong tuwing maglinis ng mga kanal sa paligid ng lunsod.  Maganda ang naging epekto ng mga ginawa ng mga sundalo ng 1st Mechanized Brigade dahil  mula noon, nawala ang kaba ng mga taga-Tacurong  kahit may makitang armored car o military truck na puno ng mga sundalo na dumadaan sa lunsod. Ang nasabing brigada ay nasa Camp Bienvenido B. Leono, Jr. mula pa noong March 1, 2017.  Malaking tulong ang nagawa ni Bogz Jamorabon, hepe ng CDRRM-Tacurong City upang magamit ng brigada ang lupaing pinagkaloob ng dating mayor ng lunsod na si Lina Montilla.

 

Mapalad ako dahill nakilala ko si Maj. Rolando M. Ocharan, Jr.  na itinalaga bilang CMO Officer ng 1st Infrantry (Maaasahan) Brigade na nakitaan ko ng sipag sa pagpapakalat ng mga impormasyon tungkol sa mga ginagawa ng brigada upang lalong maunawaan at masuportahan sila ng mga mamamayan ng mga probinsiya ng Sultan Kudarat at Maguindanao.  Magaling siyang sumulat at malinaw ang mga pagkakaulat ng mensahe kaya madaling maunawaan ng nagbabasa.

 

Mula sa mga ulat na nilathala ni Maj. Ocharan, Jr. batay sa kautusan ng nakatataas sa kanya, nalaman ko noong si BGen. Bob Dauz ay pinalitan ni BGen. Efren D. Baluyot bilang pinuno ng Camp Leono,  at nagpatuloy sa pagsilbi sa 6 na bayan at isang lunsod ng Sultan Kudarat at 7 bayan ng Maguindanao bilang bahagi ng “Development Support and Security Operations (DSSO) ng brigada.

 

Sa ngayon, ang 1st Infranty (Maaasahan) Brigade ay inilipat sa Barangay Kamasi, Ampatuan, Maguindanao at nasa pamumuno  ni Col. Jesus Rico D. Atencio. Si  BGen. Efren P. Baluyot naman ay itinalaga bilang Assistant Division Commander, Armor (Pambato) Division ng Philippine Army. Samantala, ang 601st Infantry Brigade sa pamumuno ni  BGen. Roy M. Galido ang nasa Camp Leono, Kalandagan, Tacurong City, sa kasalukuyan.

 

 

 

Ang sakrispisyo ng mga sundalo ngayon ay nabigyan ng angkop na pagkilala ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte na ang isa sa mga unang ginawa ay pagpapalaki ng kanilang sahod. Kung noon ay may mga pangangatiyaw na  lumalabas sa internet na mga larawan ng combat boots na nakanganga at halos punit-punit na uniporme dahil sa kakapusan ng budget kaya hindi agad nakakabili ng supply, ngayon ay  matitikas na ang mga sundalo dahil maagap nang natutugunan ang kanilang pangangailangan.  Ang tiwala at pagkilala sa mga sundalo na ibinigay ng president ng Pilipinas ay sinuklian naman nila ng kasipagan at sigla sa pagtupad ng kanilang tungkulin sa bayan….SAMANTALA, ANG HANGAD NAMAN NILA MULA SA MGA KABABAYAN AY RESPETO, SUPORTA AT  TIWALA.

 

TIKUG MATS STARTED MY ADVOCACY IN MANILA

“Tikug” Mats Started My Advocacy in Manila
But Nurtured as a Student in NDTC
By Apolinario Villalobos

After my stint in Tablas station (Romblon) with an initial job as Ticket/Freight Clerk of Philippine Airlines in early ‘80s, I was transferred to the Tours and Promotions Division in Manila. For practical and economic reasons, I stayed in a boarding house along Airport Road in Baclaran, as our office was at the old Domestic Airport (today, Terminal 4). During the time, what is now as ASEANA City, was yet, a body of water – Manila Bay, from the seawall of which the famed sunset could be clearly viewed. From late afternoon to early evening, I and some of my co-boarders would spend time at the seawall killing time. We would observe some people dragging their belongings in plastic and tattered shoulder bags while strolling along the boulevard, some were with their family. Before we would go back to the boarding house, we observed them spreading blankets on the grassy ground on which they rested for the night.

The scenes of elderly people and children sleeping on the ground without mat made me restless for several days. When I went back alone one early evening at around 6pm, I strolled up to the portion of the boulevard in front of the Aristocrat Restaurant in Ermita. I saw the same scenes – people lying on spread cloths and blankets on the grass.

When Boy Loquias, a new PAL recruit who was undergoing training at the PAL Training Center at the Gate 1 of Nichols Air Base joined us at the boarding house, I was glad upon learning that he was from Bohol which afforded me the opportunity to speak in Cebuano more often. When I brought him to the then, Dewey Boulevard, he was amazed to find the boulevard sleepers. Jokingly, he said that we better join them rather than spend for the boarding house. Honestly, however, he confided that something must be done to help them and asked, “asa ang SWA?” (“where is SWA?”, for which he meant Department of Social Welfare or DSW). When I mentioned giving them cheap “tikug” mat from Mindanao, he agreed. During the time, a piece of said mat was priced between 40-50pesos at the Islamic Center in Quiapo, unlike today that a single-sized costs between 120-150pesos. “Tikug” mats which are colorfully dyed are made in Cotabato.

From then on, I scrimped on my personal needs to save for mats. When Boy Loquias learned about my plan, he gave me part of his training allowance. Another co-boarder, Sammy, who was a member of the combo that performed at the Ugnayan Beer House, across our boarding house, also contributed. Initially, we were able to purchase 2 dozens of mats for which I was able to get a discount. It was not enough. I raised another amount from my saved per diem allowance, as my job then, required me to travel a lot. I also refused to accept the contribution of Boy whose allowance was just enough for his needs, especially, from Sammy who had two kids left with his wife in Naga City.

My visits to the Islamic Center in Quiapo for purchases of “tikug” mats led to my side trips to “Avenida” known for prostitutes who could be seen prowling the avenue for prospective customers, from early afternoon to early morning, the following day. I was staggered by what I observed and experienced at the Avenida. Daringly-dressed women openly made proposals while holding my hand but which I gently refused. On early mornings, not yet 7AM, thickly-rouged and obviously ageing prostitutes would ask an amount for a cup of coffee in exchange for sexual favor. From such encounters, I was able to strike friendship with many of them that developed into trust which became my passport to their dwellings in the slum along the banks of Reina Regente River. There, I met snatchers, swindlers, sex peddlers and their families. As pre-planned, I did not give them my real identity for my own safety. What they knew was that I was a job-seeker from the province and my thick Cebuano accent helped a lot, as many of them were also Bisaya.

Events oozing with colorful adventures made my curiosity stronger that led me farther to Arranque, Divisoria, Pritil, Malabon, Bagong Bayan (Dasmariἧas, Cavite), Tala Leprosarium, and Baseco Compound where I was able let out my pent up desire to share. It also led me to three other guys who had the same desire and with whom blessings were shared with those dwelling along the bank of Pasig River and Recto yearly, from the last week of November to the first week of December.

My advocacy was nurtured while I was a student of Notre Dame of Tacurong (NDTC) and nobody, even my family and closest friends knew about it, not even my colleagues in PAL later on, except Boy Loquias who was assigned at Tablas after his training, and where he raised his family. It was only when I shared my “adventures” on facebook due to the prodding of some friends, though with much hesitation, that they came to know about them. I just consoled myself with the thought that my sharing such adventures would, hopefully, make others realize that one need not be rich to be able to share blessings with others…and, that they can do the same, if they wish.

The Albertos and Valenzuelas of Barangay Mangelen in President Quirino, Province of Sultan Kudarat (Philippines)…and their Political Leadership

THE ALBERTOS AND VALENZUELAS  OF BARANGAY  MANGELEN  IN PRESIDENT QUIRINO,  PROVINCE OF SULTAN KUDARAT….AND THEIR POLITICAL LEADERSHIP

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

For one thing, Barangay Mangelen is the birthplace of the current mayor of President Quirino, Hon. Azel Valenzuela- Mangudadatu, and whose mother belongs to the Alberto family that was among those the pioneers who tilled the once swampy land of what was once part of Suben. On the other hand, the current Barangay Chairman is her younger sister, Hon. Cherry Valenzuela. But what is more interesting is that the founder of the barangay Mangelen was her grandfather,  Mariano Alberto, father of her mom, Lolita. It’s the trust of the early residents that made her late father Medencio,  become the undefeated barangay Chairman of the fledgling “barrio”. An uncle, Virgilio Alberto also had a stint as a one-termer barangay Chairman, and I was fortunate to have met him in the morning of May 19, 2020 when I visited him at their home. I learned that he was also a one-termer Vice-Mayor of Presidente Quirino, formerly known as Sambolawan, which together with Tacurong City, were former “barrios” of Buluan,  a flourishing Maguindanao town that benefited from the flow of commerce along the Big River or “Rio Grande” that sliced through it.

 

The Albertos has a long history of political leadership.  According to Mr. Virgilio Alberto who was a retired military officer,  their father, Mariano who was then a Councilor of Buluan founded Barangay Mangelen on the land that was donated by Datu Luminog who was then, the mayor of the aforementioned town…that was during the early 1960s. Virgilio’s sister, Lolita married Medencio Valenzuela, and whose eldest daughter, AZEL, married to a Mangudadatu, is currently, the mayor of President Quirino. Her younger sister, Cherry is currently, the barangay Chairman of their birthplace, Mangelen. The rest of the siblings are Sheila Mae, Jennifer, and Novy.

The  Albertos and Valenzuelas  arrived in the vast wetland in 1935 during which the homestead program was at its height.  The area that they settled in, was politically part of Suben. Further east, the area  was then known as Sambolawan. The patriarch of the Albertos, Mariano who was married to Justiniana,  embarked on  a political career that landed him a post  as one of the Councilors of Buluan, a good arrangement as he represented the settlers in Suben.  As the settlement grew, Mayor Luminog decided to separate it from Suben, and in the process donated the land that they have been cultivating. To show their gratitude, the settlers named their “barrio” Mangelen after Mayor Luminog Mangelen.

 

With the establishment of the barrio of Mangelen  that was weaned from Suben to become  a new political unit under Buluan, Mariano Alberto was chosen by the settlers to become their first “Teniente del Barrio”. The son, Virgilio had his chance to spearhead their barangay for one term, and later became the Vice-mayor of President Quirino. His brother –in-law, Medencio Valenzuela and husband of his younger sister, Lolita also became a Barangay Chairman but he recorded a feat as the undefeated leader until he finally decided to give way to other trusted fellow Ilocanos.  As fate would have it, two of his children inherited his political leadership….Cherry who is the current Barangay Chairperson of Mangelen, one of the barangays of President Quirino, at the helm of which as the current mayor is Azel who is married to a Mangudadatu of Buluan.

 

During my talk with Mr. Virgilio Alberto, he fondly recalled his 28 years in his combined police and military career.  He confided that he was a police officer when he was called to render duty in the military during the Martial Law, the time of dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.  As he got no choice, he tried his best to do his job well until the time of his retirement. He met his wife, Susan, who was then, teaching at the Lyceum of Southern Philippines in Tacurong.  The couple is blessed with eight offspring: Robinson, Ricardo, Rafael, Virgilio Jrl, Glenn, Virna, Lochinvar and Dexter. When I visited the family, I was with my nephew, Nonoy who is their godchild during his baptism and his marriage.

At the rate good things are going including a provincial road being constructed towards the direction of the western barangays that include Mangilala,  to connect with the Alunan highway that cuts through Tacurong  and leads towards South Cotabato, Mangelen is  definitely facing a bright future.

 

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MADAM GUIARIYA M. KUDA of PANDAG, MAGUINDANAO (PHILIPPINES)

MADAM GUIARIYA M. KUDA….NAGING BARANGAY CHAIRPERSON AT  MAYOR NG PANDAG, MAGUINDANAO, AT NAG-ARARO NG BUKID NANG MAGING BIYUDA

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Para akong nakahukay ng ginto ng makilala ko si Madam Guiariya sa terminal ng mga multi-cab na nagbibiyahe sa Datu Paglas at Buluan. Ang unang nakatawag ng aking pansin ay ang kanyang damit at mukha na kahit may mga kulubot ay nakikitaan pa rin ng ganda. Malaki ang pasasalamat ko nang pumayag siyang makunan ko ng larawan at nakipag-usap pa sa akin.

 

Noon ko nalaman na dati pala siyang barangay chairperson ng Pandag, Maguindanao at naging mayor nito nang mai-angat sa pagiging bayan. Dating barangay ng Buluan, Maguindanao ang Pandag. Sa pag-uusap namin ay nabanggit niyang nadanasan din niyang mag-araro ng kanilang bukid nang siya ay mabiyuda, sabay pakita ng kanyang mga kamay na nakitaan ko ng mga bakas ng humilom na sugat sa pagkakahawak ng bakal na araro. Masayang kausap si Madam Guiariya at napansin ko rin ang maliksi niyang pagkilos sa kabila ng kanyang gulang na 76 na taon….at sa kanyang pananalita ay mahahalata ang kanyang talino.

 

 

 

COUNTER-INSURGENCY OPERATIONS IN THE PROVINCE OF SULTAN KUDARAT, MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES: OUR VALUABLE LESSONS by Harold M. Cabunoc

COUNTER-INSURGENCY OPERATIONS IN THE PROVINCE OF SULTAN KUDARAT: OUR VALUABLE LESSONS

By Lt Col Harold M. Cabunoc

 

 

 

As one of the most experienced military in counterinsurgency operations, the Philippine Army has accumulated tons of lessons that can be shared among its leaders. In the 1950s, we had learned the value of winning popular support, a crucial factor in defeating the forces of the Huks. It was President Ramon Magsaysay’s pro-people policies that ensured the delivery of essential services to the poorest communities, enhancing the legitimacy of the Philippine government. The show of good governance during that period was also coincided with the creation of the AFP’s effective counterinsurgency outfits, the First Scout Ranger Regiment and the Civil Relations Service. However, these lessons usually disappeared in the shadows of oblivion because of poor documentation, lack of effort in doctrine development, and non-inclusion of COIN studies in our professional military education. In this article, I will attempt to describe how my unit relearnt some of the past COIN lessons that resulted in the surrender of a significant number of NPA rebels in Sultan Kudarat.

 

 

Communist insurgency in Sultan Kudarat

 

The Philippines as a whole and Sultan Kudarat in particular, suffered from the turmoils brought by various insurgencies after it was granted independence by the American colonizers in 1946. The newly created province became a battleground when the ethno-nationalist Moro National Liberation Front expanded its militaristic forays in mainland Mindanao in the 1970s. In response, pro-government paramilitary forces such as the BSDU/CHDF were organized to help the AFP contain the main security threat during that period. As a result, the indigenous peoples like the T’boli, Teduray, and Dulangan Manobo tribesmen, the jungle dwellers, got entangled in the armed conflict that raged in the area. Displaced from their ancestral domain, the indigenous people would later join the communist movement to fight the heavily armed ‘land grabbers’.

 

 

The Insurgents

 

Based on its own online publications, the communist movement (CPP-NPA-NDF) has remained focused in achieving its ultimate goal of replacing the current economic and political order in the Philippines with a socialist system. To achieve this, the communistscarry out a ‘protracted people’s war’ that is waged from the countryside. According to Commander Bobby of the NPA’s Local Guerilla Unit in Sultan Kudarat, the cadres of the Guerilla Front 73 entered the communities of the Dulangan Manobo tribe in the tri-boundary of Senator Ninoy Aquino, Bagumbayan, and Esperanza, sometime in May 2015. Led by Ka George (T.N. Randy Lamigo) and Ka Makmak, the small group of Visayan speaking NPA cadres gathered the Manobo tribal members including their Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs), to identify community problems. The NPA recruiters had a perfect audience for their organizing activities because of the existing land conflict between the lumads and the 29,000 hectareM&S Company. The issuance of high-powered rifles and the prospect of seizing what they claimed as part of their ancestral lands had attracted more than a hundred of the lumads (indigenous people) in joining the New People’s Army. The surge of lumad recruits is reflected by the fact that indigenous peoples comprise at least 90% of the ranks of the Guerilla Front 73. Notably, all of the 161 NPA surrenderees from May 2017-August 2018were Manobo tribesmen. The result of the custodial debriefing for the recent surrenderees reveal that they have not considered the state forces (Army and PNP) as their enemies; rather, they were focused on attacking the SCAA (Special CAFGU/paramilitary forces of the Army) that protects the peripheries of the plantation.

 

The support of the lumads enabled the Guerilla Front 73 to establish training camps along the Daguma Mountain Range, straddling from Ampatuan town in Maguindanao to Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat. The lumad support and the establishment of safe havens also allowed the NPA to collect ‘revolutionary taxes’ from farmers, illegal miners, businessmen, and private contractors. There is no reported foreign funding for the group but there are consistent reports about politicians from South Cotabato who had provided material and political support for the communist rebels.  In mixed communities, the insurgents were able to establish a tactical ‘alliance’ with other armed groups such as the loose factions of the MILF and other private armed groups.

 

Through the immersion of communist front organizations like Kalumaran and Kaluhamin, the insurgents were able to manipulate the lumads in joining the mass mobilizations in Koronadal, Kidapawan, and Davao City. Kilusang Rebolusyonaryong Baranggay leader Eson Digan was among the few who were deceived by the members of the Anak-Pawis and Bayan Muna in joining the protest rallies in Manila.

 

The case of TAMASCO claimants of the 1,600 hectares of land in the boundary between the villages of Sto Nino in Bagumbayan town and Ned in Lake Sebu, is the perfect example of how the communists are able to exploit the issues on land conflicts. Datu Victor ‘Bitul’ Denian, the leader of the Dulangan Manobo tribe, had been fighting to get back the 300  hectare Dawang Coffee Plantation of the Consunji Family. Unfortunately, when the contract of lease expired in December 2016, the investment company allegedly extended its hold of the land through ‘integration’ process. The indigenous people complained that the land must be returned because they no longer approved of the lease. While most of the tribal elders opted to raise their sentiments to DENR by legal means, Datu Victor and his followers, out of desperation, accommodated the CPP-NPA-NDF in their community. This patronage led to the forcible seizure of about 50 hectares of coffee plantation, employing child warriors with indigenous weapons. Former New People’s Army members who surrendered to the 33rd IB revealed that they were actually providing fire support in case the armed SCAA (militia forces) will repulse them.

 

Eventually, eight of Datu Victor’s followers became full time members of the New People’s Army. Meanwhile, Datal Bonglangon community gradually evolved as a communist guerilla base with a shadow government (Kilusang Rebolusyonaryong  Barangay) headed by Abelardo Wali and satellite camps manned by regular NPA members. The recovered subversive documents after the encounter against the armed groups in DatalBonglangon on December 3, 2017 revealed the extent of the communist influence in the area including nearby communities of the Dulangan Manobo and T’boli.

 

 

 

The Counterinsurgents

 

The 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion in collaboration with its partner government agencies, combines offensive, defensive and civil support operations in dealing the communist influence within the area of operations. Though thinly spread in a vast expanse of communist-influenced area, the unit enjoys the support of the majority of the population including the local government leaders. To appreciate the operating environment, I retooled two of my maneuver companies (Alpha and Charlie) in order to prepare them in the new operating environment that requires skill sets in both small-unit tactics, counter-guerilla operations, and nation-building. As the primary field operators in our counterinsurgency campaign, I encouraged collaboration and cooperation within the Army. I required my Intelligence Section to collaborate and exchange notes with other intelligence units that are directly supporting or complementing our operations. On the other hand, I taught my Company Commanders on how to conduct purposive stakeholders engagement to frame the problem correctly and to achieve unity of effort in our COIN campaign. At the battalion level, I work with my S3, S2, and S7 on how to support the line units in whatever means necessary, including the establishment of network of contacts among public servants and civil society organizations that can partner with our unit. Most importantly, I encouraged self-education by requiring my subordinates to ready and critically analyze books on Counterinsurgency and military history, and spearhead small group discussions on relevant topics that would improve our ability to effectively handle the local insurgency problem in our AO.

 

 

 

Lessons in Counterinsurgency

 

I have learned valuable lessons in my involvement in different type of insurgencies (carried out by non-state actors such as MNLF, Abu Sayyaf, and the MILF) since my younger years as a combat leader of the First Scout Ranger Regiment. I realized that there are similarities in most of the lessons based on my field experiences but let me put emphasis on the recent lessons that we gained in our recent campaign against the CPP-NPA-NDF’s Guerilla Front 73, Far South Mindanao Region:

  • Frame the problem
  • Win popular support
  • Synchronization of effort
  • Dominate the information domain

 

Framing the problem correctly enabled my battalion to focus its efforts on the root causes of the communist insurgency. Like any other insurgencies in the country, the armed insurgent is only a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Through our community engagements, we relearned that the communist insurgency in our AO is driven by socio-political and economic grievances. For example, the illiterate and desperate lumads (Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao) were easily convinced by the communist cadres that their ancestral domain claims could be solved through armed violence. The sad experience of being driven out of their traditional hunting grounds led the lumads to take up arms against the ‘Consunji guards’. This information was corroborated by the tribal elders during our initial engagement with all members of the Dulangan Manobo tribal council in April 2017, and it was further attested by the initial batch of Manobo tribesmen who surrendered to our unit in May 2017. Ka Randy, a former NPA leader from Kuden village, revealed that they were not fighting the government; rather, they were repulsing the ‘Consunji Guards’ who were allegedly sent to destroy their crops. This vital piece of information gave us a clearer picture on how to negotiate for the surrender of the other tribal members, and how to facilitate the resolution of their dispute with the M&S through legal means. As a battalion commander, I facilitated dialogues with the TAMASCO claimants of the Dawang Coffee Plantation in collaboration with Mayor Jonalette De Pedro of Bagumbayan town. Our problem was that Datu Victor, the President of TAMASCO, had allied with the NPA and seized part of the plantation. Later, the seized property became a communist run ‘communal farm’ tended by recruited YUMIL (Yunit Milisya) in the neighboring villages.

 

Winning popular support rather than focusing on the armed insurgents is something that we have relearned from the experiences of past counterinsurgents around the world. Ramon Magsaysay understood this concept during the HUK Campaign in the 1950s, in the same way how General David Petraeus stabilized Mosul in 2004, and later, the whole of Iraq during the ‘Troop Surge’ in 2007. In our AO, we engaged the local chief executives to pledge our support in delivering social services right in ‘the doorstep’ of their constituents. As a result, our unit actively participated in the AKAP (Abot-Kamay Program) of Bagumbayan town and the similar public service caravans of Lutayan and Senator Ninoy Aquino (Kulaman). We took charge of the security arrangements on the ground and at the same time, provided ‘libreng gupit’ as well as donated items from our unit’s partner CSOs like HOPE Philippines, PBA Legends, and QSMI. Highly visible in the ‘whole of government’ delivery of essential services, our battalion facilitated the enhancement of the local government’s legitimacy. In summary, we learned that government’s legitimacy means winning the support of the people, the center of gravity in an insurgency.

 

Directly related to winning popular support is the ability of the military unit and the civil government to synchronize their effort towards a common goal. We learned the need to understand the impact of kinetic operations on the community. To attain unity of effort in a particular town, we briefed the local executives about our lines of operations and the objectives that we are trying to achieve. We explained to them that the military and civilian government can effectively work together in achieving common objectives in a particular community. The synergy of our effort is reflected by our battalion’s facilitation of the passage of a barangay resolution requesting for the establishment of a community defense system that will augment the effort of the Army in peace and security matters. The same is true with the unity of effort that we achieved in our community services that were participated and supported by non-government organizations such as HOPE Philippines focusing on education and Rotary Club of Tacurong for community based livelihood opportunities. Through synchronization of effort, we were able to walk the talk, enhancing our credibility before the people.

 

We have also relearned that respect for the rule of law establishes our credibility as members of the state forces. It means respect for human rights, adherence to the laws of armed conflict, and rules of engagement. To achieve this, I ensured that every soldier and our partners from other law enforcement agencies will refrain from committing abuses during our operations. During our focused military operations against the New People’s Army, we saved injured insurgentsand treated them humanely. My battalion observed the rules of engagement during the kinetic operations against members of the Platoon Cloud Phone in Isulan town in August 2017 during which we captured two NPA fighters. We replicated this during our combat actions against the Platoon Arabo of the NPA in Datal Bonglangon wherein my unit treated wounded combatants. These operations established my unit’s solid reputation as human rights advocates and pro-people soldiers. Consequently, the good reputation of the unit enabled us to win popular support, influencing the decision of the disorganized insurgents to lay down their arms.

 

Last but not the least, we learned the value of dominating the information domain. I taught my subordinate leaders to tell their story in images and videos. I reminded my soldiers the saying: “Even if Superman was able to save the whole world but nobody talks about it, it never happened.” To capacitate my unit, I invested in training. Ms. Hannah Reyes-Morales, a world-class photographer for National Geographic, shared her skills in Cellphone Photography. We also handpicked soldiers to undergo Combat Photography under Mr. Carlo Claudio, and hired an expert on  Video Editing/ Film Making. With a steady source of public affairs and psy-ops products, my unit utilized the social media in sharing our good stories, and refute the narrative of the communists. On the other hand, I learned that the people in the hinterlands are fond listeners of both Bombo Radyo and Brigada News, two of the most influential radio stations in the region. With this knowledge, I made sure that we were always ahead of the enemy in the headlines, focusing on the truth of what we have done in the communities. And, we reaped the fruits of our labor in a few months when Benjamin Calay, one of the first surrenderees from Platoon Cherry Mobile of the GF73, shared his story. He narrated during our radio guesting at Bombo Radyo-Koronadal that they learned about the deployment of trained snipers, based on the feature story of our advanced marksmanship training for selected CAFGU personnel. The ‘presence’ of the snipers (and also the good stories that they heard from the tribal elders) influenced his decision to surrender together with 10 of his fellow NPA fighters.

 

 

Learning and adapting

 

We recognize the fact that we are currently confronting a highly adaptive enemy in our COIN campaign all over the Philippine archipelago. It means that the  Philippine Army must document its lessons and turn it into case studies and doctrine manuals that will be shared to the next generation of COIN operators. We have to admit that we are currently engaged in ‘small wars’ that require continuous learning. We have to learn and adapt to win a war, as German leader Otto Von Bismarck said: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

 

 

(The author is the incumbent Battalion Commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion based at Tual, President Quirino. The said military contingent confronts both communist insurgents and Southern Philippines secessionist groups in Central Mindanao. Prior to his current assignment, he had served in various conflict-affected areas such as Basilan, Sulu, Bicol Region, and Central Mindanao. He finished his Masters in Military and Defense Studies at the Australian National University)

1 biography

 

 

The BBGM Hotel and Coffee Shop in Buluan (Maguindanao, Philippines)…by Apolinario Villalobos

The BBGM that looks cool from the highway may just be perceived as just a simple structure but it proves to be a big surprise as one steps inside the hotel that offers bed and breakfast and the coffee shop beside the water refilling station. I consider the four-letters as a pride of Buluan, Maguindanao….