THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will deploy soldiers in six villages in Cagayan de Oro City for its Bayanihan Alert for Peace and Development (BAPD).

Bayanihan, which means working together in the Philippines, is an approach of the AFP for a close coordination with the community in working for the safety of the citizens.

The 403rd Infantry “Peacemaker” Brigade (403 IB) is set to deploy its soldiers in the villages of Balulang, Tagpangi, Bonbon, Tuburan and Agusan. Each village will host a platoon of enlisted personnel.

“We are here as front liners and get involved in the affairs of the community and find out from the people their needs and then for us to act as catalysts for those needs to materialize,” said Col. Francisco Pabayo, 403 IB commander.

The soldiers are expected to initiate activities like youth leadership and community leaders’ enhancement seminars; establish livelihood projects; and strengthen existing village defense system in collaboration with the Philippine National Police (PNP), local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders.

“PNP is very willing to support the program. But because of the big population size in barangays, we also need help in the maintenance of the peace and order. We are here to back up the AFP and vice versa,” said Superintendent Dexter Paje, Police Community Relations Officer of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo).

Paje assured that police visibility will be frequent in the identified villages.

Immediate response

Mayor Oscar Moreno, who graced the send-off ceremony at Balulang village covered court on Friday, said the program will help giving immediate response to the villages.

Moreno lauded the military and asked the cooperation of the concerned communities.

“This is to bring projects to the people with the military. This partnership goes beyond Cagayan de Oro and even Misamis Oriental. This is for the whole Northern Mindanao,” he added.

Different perception

Tuburan village councilor Charlito Yañez, however, said “residents have a different perception of the military presence" in their place.

“Whenever they see people in fatigue uniforms, they get scared. In 1983, military men massacred families in Tuburan. But later on, some of the people knew that they were rebels dressed in AFP uniforms. So it will be a problem when there is a military presence there since not all have understood yet,” Yañez said.

“But we whole-heartedly accept this kind of program. It will just take some time for the residents to get used to your presence there,” he added.

Balulang chairman Alfredo Carcosa said his village’s concern is on the peace and order.

“We have a peace and order problem here in Balulang because of the high count of [carjacking] cases. But with the help of the military, although it is not their job, but they can maintain peace and order in our community,” Carcosa said.

Aside from peace and order, AFP will also conduct trainings in case of disasters like typhoon Sendong in 2011.

“We have trainings for the people in the community. Trainings will involve first aid, dos and don’ts, among others. We also have an information education for the people wherein we invite weather forecasters that are in authority to talk on earthquakes, typhoons and the like,” said Captain Invinzor Meneses, commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 43rd Civil Military Operations (CMO) company.