LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID) on Thursday, October 19, added a brand new battalion under its command, bringing to a total of 8 the number of battalions operating in its area of responsibility.
The 4th ID’s area of responsibility covers Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Island.
Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and the Agusan and Surigao provinces have a strong Communist rebel presence, with Surigao del Sur having been once one of the most militarized provinces in the country in 2015 at the height of the Lumad Crisis with 5 battalions around its borders.
The 88th Infantry Battalion (IB) will be operating from Maramag, Bukidnon, at the former camp of the 8th IB.
Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th ID said that the activation and deployment of 88th IB which is composed of 450 soldiers is part of the president's plan to hasten the resolution of all internal conflicts in the country.
“They are tasked to address the threat situation in the Southern part of Bukidnon,” Capt Martinez said.
The province has its shares of NPA attacks, most recently the attack on Davao Agricultural Ventures (Davco) where rebels torched vehicles and equipments and disarmed security personnel.
Martinez added that the deployment will help pave way for the smooth implementation of all Government programs and services that would benefit every Filipinos in all parts of the Archipelago.
Major General Ronald C. Villanueva, 4th ID Commanding General, underlined the specific tasks and mission of the said battalion that are aligned to the current AFP campaign which is the Development Support and Security Plan "Kapayapaan".
"When we talk about terrorism, we don't only mean Maute or ISIS; we also talk about the New People's Army that have longed made the lives of our people in Bukidnon miserable, Villanueva said.
He added that the terrorists not only burn trucks and plantations, they "also extort hard-earned money from poor farmers and... recruit children to fight against the government."
Villanueva emphasized the real intent of the NPA is not to topple down the armed forces but to take the governance from the people.
“This is the reason why we remain strong, resilient, and have improved our security stance in order to not just eliminate but to fully address this insurgency situation that have longed been affecting our Country's development," Villanueva added.
"To all of you, soldiers of this battalion, I expect that you will always bear the professionalism as you execute your tasks, build bridges from among the people, earn their respect and gain friends. There is no room for any human rights violations,” Villanueva addressed the soldiers.
“We have already gained... people's support especially during our efforts in Marawi. Don't let one mistake destroy what we have sacrificed for our Country. We support the intent of our Commander-in-Chief to protect the state and the people. Again I remind all of you to perform only your duty as a disciplined soldier," Villanueva added.
Martinez said that the soldiers from 88th IB came from different divisions from the army, the 3rd, 8th, and 9th IDs, and new graduates from the 4th ID.
The soldiers from the 3 divisions were replaced by new graduates from their own divisions. – Rappler.com