SOME 120 aspiring soldiers from the different tribes of Indigenous Peoples in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions took oath for the start of their training on Tuesday, July 18 in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro.
If successful, they’re going to beef up the troops of the Armed Forces in the fight against the decades-old communist insurgency.
Major General Benjamin Madrigal Jr., the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, was quick to explain that the move is aimed to alleviate the living condition of the indigenous people.
"This is to give equal opportunities to our indigenous people so that they too will have the chance to join the army. Because we all know that if they will try to compete with the people here in the cities, they will be at a disadvantage especially when it comes to educational attainment," Madrigal said.
The army training program, Madrigal said, was in compliance to the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997 or the IPRA Law.
Under the said act, there should be a certain quota in the ranks of the Philippines Army that will be allotted for Indigenous People.
The 120 candidate soldiers are members of various Indigenous Peoples in Northern Mindanao and Caraga such as the Higaonons and the Subanons.
According to 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, these trainees were recommended personally by their tribe chiefs and were then turned over for recruitment and training at Camp Evangelista.
Madrigal denied that some of the chosen candidate soldiers are former members of the communist New People's Army (NPA).
"These soldiers were personally recommended by their tribal chieftains so we can be assured of their background before entering the training," MADRIGAL said.
The candidate soldiers, Madrigal said, will undergo training for six months, after which they will be given the rank of private and will join the 4th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Martinez said the kind of training the soldier candidates have to undergo will be highly similar to the training for the regular troops of the army.
In addition, they’ll have to undertake basic lessons that will be done through Alternative Learning System or ALS.
Different tribal leaders as well as the Regional Directors of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions have also attended the military event.
In light of the recent chaos that are being experienced in the Lanao area, Madrigal said that the Philippine force is doing its best to slowly take back and gain control of the situation.
"Hopefully, this will come to an end. But of course, we are doing it slowly, building by building, floor by floor just so we can be sure that the area will be cleared," Madrigal said.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 19, 2017.