OVER 500 soldiers previously assigned in Lanao del Sur arrived in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday purportedly to help in fighting the communist rebels.
They’ve been ordered to join forces with the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in its crackdown efforts against communist rebels in Northern Mindanao and Caraga region, otherwise known as the bailiwicks of the New People's Army (NPA).
According to Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, 4ID spokesperson, that apart from fighting the rebels, the additional manpower will also bolster disaster response capabilities in 4ID's area of responsibility.
Comprising the 65th Infantry (Stalwart) Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division that originally based in Bicol Region, the additional soldiers is headed by Liutenant Colonel Richard Rabaca.
Martinez said the soldiers had been deployed in Northern Mindanao to secure the entry and exit points of Lanao del Sur areas during the Marawi crisis.
"Marami pa silang kailangang pagdaanan prior sa kanilang deployment, they have to undergo series of lectures sa ating area, cultural sensitivity, refresher sa ating human rights and other operational matters para malaman nila ang ating area of responsibility at ano yung kinakaharap nating situation and how to address, ano yung approach in partnership with our stakeholders. They will stay in our area of responsibility depending on the situation sa ground," Martinez said.
"It can be recalled October last year, we added new battalion sa southern part ng Bukidnon, and we still need additional battalions to address some areas in Northern Mindanao, in Caraga regions, ito yung balwarte ng NPA's army strength nationwide, included ang Compostella Valley, andito yung strength ng NPA nationwide," he added.
Martinez further said the full might of the battalion will also initiate community-based dialogues "to enlighten the members of illegal secret associations organized by the terrorist NPAs in the villages".
Brigadier General Cristobal Zaragoza, 4ID's Assist and Division Commander for Operations, urged the soldiers to study the "barrio module" and learn the tactics used by the rebels in "manipulating especially lumad people".
"Ang kailangan nating sundalo ay nag-iiisip at hindi lang puro tapang, you'll be deployed at doon niyo malaman kung paano niloloko ng mga NPA ang ating mga kababayan sa malalayong lugar, sa IP areas. Pag-aralan niyo para alam niyo kung paano sila talunin. Umpisahan ninyong pag-aralan ang barrio module para alam niyo kung paano sila pumasok sa barangay," he said.
"Build bridges from among the people, earn their respect and gain friends. There is no room for any Human Rights violations. We have already gained an immeasurable people's support in this part of the country. Don't let one mistake destroy what we have sacrificed for our Country," he added.