Guns not only answer vs NPA, says next military chief Madrigal

MANILA, Philippines – Veteran rebel hunter Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal Jr wants a holistic approach to battling communist insurgency when he takes over as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Defense reporters called Madrigal and asked for his priorities as AFP chief after his appointment paper was released by Malacañang on Thursday, December 6.

As he comes from leading the Davao-based Eastern Mindanao Command, which is focused on battling communist rebels, Madrigal was asked whether he would bring the same thrust to Camp Aguinaldo.

"Actually 'yung defeating the NPA (New People's Army) is just a part no'ng campaign.... Meron tayong tinatawag na people-centered strategy rin. Kasi ang importante dito mawala...'yung support system ng regulars, so kailangan ito...resilient communities. Diyan kailangan talaga natin 'yung all agencies para makita 'yung, magkaroon tayo ng culture of peace," Madrigal said.

(Actually, defeating the NPA is just a part of the campaign. We have what we call a people-centered strategy. Because what's important here is the loss of the support system of the regular NPA members, so what we need are resilient communities. We would need all agencies so we could achieve a culture of peace.)

Madrigal said he saw this approach working up close during his one-year stint in Eastern Mindanao, where the government has been pursuing localized peace talks since it halted formal talks with leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

"It is doable. But we need the support of all the stakeholders, the local government units. This should be translated to other areas," Madrigal said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Madrigal is set to replace AFP chief General Carlito Galvez Jr, his military academy classmate, on December 12.

Prior to his appointment, Madrigal made a name for himself as commander of the Southern Luzon Command, the Cagayan de Oro-based 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, and the 701st Infantry Brigade in Mati, Davao Oriental.

"It is a big honor to receive the trust and confidence of the AFP chief of staff, [and] of course, the commander-in-chief, our beloved President," Madrigal said. – 

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.