TWO days before his mandatory retirement from service in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), incumbent AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya visited the 4th Infantry "Diamond" Division of the Philippine Army at Camp Evangelista in Patag, Cagayan de Oro City on December 5.
As the former commander of the Diamond Division of the AFP, Visaya visited Camp Evangelista to bid farewell to the troops of the 4ID.
Visaya was first assigned in the 4ID as a young lieutenant immediately after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy "Matikas" class in 1983.
He then served as the division's commander from 2013 to 2014.
During his time as the commander of 4ID, he was able to manage the conflict situations in Northern Mindanao and Caraga that led to the surrender of more than 300 members of the New People's Army and witnessed in four so-called “Pagbabalik-loob” programs.
"I would like to thank the 4ID for being part of my big success in the military service. This is where I started my career as a young lieutenant and got a chance to be awarded as the junior officer of the year back in 1985. I was again given the opportunity to lead the division in 2013 as its 38th Commander. During that time, I could clearly recall that we have contributed to the peace and stability of the two regions and was able to encourage every diamond trooper to do their part and contribute to the attainment of just and lasting peace in this part of the country," Visaya said.
Aside from expressing his gratitude to the diamond troopers, Visaya also commended 4ID's recent success in negotiating with the New People's Army in the Caraga region.
"This visit is not only to thank you for all the support that you have given me in my lieutenant days and when I was the division commander but also I would like to thank you for all the efforts that you have been giving, at least you maintained the situation in the Caraga region. As ever, this division is the Diamond division, walang kupas (never ending)," Visaya said.
He added that if the Army becomes successful in these negotiations with the NPA, the rebels may even be integrated with the Army as long as they pass the army's requirements.
"I want you to continue with that. As you all know, the 10,000 additional troops already has a budget. 8,000 will go to the army, 1,000 to the air force, and 1,000 to the navy," Visaya said.
With regards to the issue of terrorism in the country, Visaya said that the AFP has been doing good in the anti-terrorism move in the Philippines.
Visaya said they have at least prevented further kidnapping cases by terrorists especially in the high seas.
"Because that is what the President has really told us to crush the Abu Sayaf because of the reputation that the kidnapping activities are giving to us. And that also goes to the Maute group as well. But we are doing good," Visaya said.
With regards to the recent encounters with the Maute group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, Visaya said that as the AFP has completely regained control of the area, they will further continue their presence there.
"Well as the Maute group has lost 61 members, those who have died, and that is a fairly significant loss. But then, under the judgment of Commander Barrientos, the troops will remains there as we cannot be sure if the Maute group will stop reclaiming Butig because the place is very important for them," Visaya said.
The incumbent AFP chief reminded the 4ID troops about the instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte in avoiding the usage of drugs among the army personnel.
"At least for us here, the number of users have already decreased to none. But I have to warn everyone that you have to be careful about negotiating with people who are suspected of being involved with drugs. Do not ruin your career because of those things," Visaya said.
Moreover, Visaya also assured the troops of the continuing modernization that the army will undergo for the next year.
He added that two FA-50 combat aircraft from South Korea have already arrived and more will come for the succeeding months.
Visaya's successor as AFP Chief of Staff has not been announced and will be determined before his retirement on December 7.