Davao City, Philippines – In response to the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte to “destroy the enemy,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced it will augment its brigade covering indigenous peoples communities in Southern Mindanao region.
“The message of the President is clear to us. It is now our primary task. The additional troops coming from Luzon will be a great help in accomplishing our mission as we eliminate the enemies of the state particularly, now that we are calling them, the CPP-NPA terrorists (CNTs),” said Colonel Ernesto Torres, the Philippine Army Commander of the 1003rd Brigade in an AFP-PNP press conference on Wednesday morning here at Mandaya Hotel.
The 1003 rd Brigade currently comprises the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 16th IB and the 89th IB and are operating in Paquibato, Marilog, Calinan, Baguio, and Toril districts in Davao City, Davao del Norte towns: Sto. Tomas, Carmen, Panabo and Island Garden City of Samal.
The 56th IB from Luzon is expected to report by the first week of February and will cover Talaingod town in Davao del Norte.
Leaders of IP groups in a protest against martial law extension in Mindanao at Freedom Park on Wednesday afternoon slammed the additional troops deployed.
In an interview with Davao Today, Datu Kaylo Bontulan, a leader of a local Lumad group Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon (Salugpungan) in Talaingod expressed dismay over the President’s remark especially with martial law being extended in Mindanao and feared that their lives are at stake under the hands of the armed security forces.
“Wala pa nag-deploy, pirmi na ang pagpamatay sa mga Lumad sama ni Obello Bay-ao (Lumad killings continue even before the additional deployment of troops, like in the case of Obello Bay-ao),” said Bontulan.
He pointed that once the additional troops arrive in Talaingod, IPs will have no choice but to flee, leaving their farms and homes.
The Lumad leader slammed the food blockade and the red tagging that have further impoverished their communities.
He also questioned that if the military is actually targeting communist rebels, they should have deployed the soldiers evenly in Luzon and Visayas as NPAs are also operating in other parts of the country.
He believed that the rapid military deployment and expansion of its operations in Mindanao are meant to protect the mining companies that are exploiting and poised to exploit more on IP’s ancestral domain.
There are about 52 applications for mining concessions in Talaingod, Bontulan said.
“Ang akong panawagan kay Duterte, nga kung ang NPA iyang target, dili martial law ang tubag. Kundili, pagpanubag sa panginahanglan sa katawhan ug pagrespeto sa panagiya sa mga lumad sa ilang yutang kabilin (I am asking the President that martial law will not resolve the issue on the NPAs. But rather, addressing the basic needs of the masses and respect for IPs in their ancestral domain),” said Bontulan.
Aside from incoming new battalion, a total of over 300 soldiers are joining the 1003rd Brigade, 80 of whom are indigenous people (IP). Another two special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) companies with 120 private soldiers each also form part of the brigade forces.
Col. Torres is confident that there will be more successful counter-insurgency operations with the increased number of forces in under his command together with the intelligence, artillery and other complimentary units needed in his brigade, as it puts them in “better position to defeat the threats of CNTs especially in Metro Davao.”
The 901st Brigade from Luzon is said to be joining the 4th Infantry Division which will act as controlling headquarters to be stationed along the boundaries of Bukidnon and Cotabato provinces. President Duterte has ordered the military to “destroy the NPAs (New People’s Army), destroy the organization” in his speech during the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) joint command conference at the 10th Infantry Division Headquarters in Mawab, Compostela Valley on Monday. (davaotoday.com)