ABOUT 15 Lumads or members of indigenous peoples’ (IPs) communities are part of 115 candidate soldiers who will be undergoing military training at the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in Camp Evangelista, Barangay Patag, Cagayan de Oro City.
The candidate soldiers composed of 95 males and 20 females from Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions are undergoing the selection process, among them qualifying examinations designed to test their mental and physical abilities.
Major General Ronald Villanueva, 4ID Commander, advised the future soldiers to always follow commands and be "perfect".
Villanueva also urged more Lumads to join the military so they can help protect their communities.
"Having them join the Armed Forces is also giving them chance to serve their people, their fellow Lumads, and help their community protect their ancestral domain, instead of being exploited lang by the New People's Army (NPA)," he added.
The candidate soldiers will undergo basic military training at the 4th Division Training School in Malaybalay, Bukidnon and the 6th Infantry Division Training School in Carmen, North Cotabato.
The six-month training will teach the candidate soldiers combat fighting, life-saving imperatives, disaster response operation, peacekeeping initiatives, human rights, rule of law, and rules of engagement.
The new breed of so-called peace advocates will fill up the needed number of personnel due to the attrition such as optional and compulsory retirement, among others.
Responding to the attacks of the NPA rebels in Bukidnon, Villanueva is asking security agencies to raise their guards against the armed rebels.
"We are asking security agencies concerned sa security sa mga companies, because we cannot be security people for companies in these areas, so we ask their help to tell us if there are already threats so that these can be addressed," he said.
"We cannot man all the businesses, that is not our mandate," he added.
Last Sunday, the NPA attacked Davao Ventures Corporation (Davco), a multinational company, in Barangay Merangeran, Quezon, Bukidnon, burning a boom spray, a tractor, a water tanker, two backhoes, a chemical mixer and razed a supply depot where toxic chemicals are stored, and recovered several firearms.
The NPA said the attack is a constant reminder for Davco to stop expanding in agricultural areas "where staple food crops are cultivated", adding that their action served as a "deterrent to the US-Duterte regime's plan in Mindanao on their plan to expand export-oriented and commercial crops such as pineapple, banana, cacao, and rubber".
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 12, 2017.