BANCASI, Butuan City – The 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade situated at the capital of the Caraga Region in Butuan City, in partnership and collaboration with the different Local Government Units and Agencies has been one of the key influencers in the acceleration of Peace and Development in Caraga thru the convergence among peace stakeholders.
For the past decades, Insurgency in the region has been closely linked with the use of natural resources and issues on IPs. Most of Insurgents’ recruit are members of IPs with reported case that 3 out of 4 NPA members are IPs and hindered economic development as they extort money from the business sectors. The region has identified four (4) major conflict lines – Criminality, Insurgency, Resource-based Conflicts and Issues Affecting the Indigenous People, with each of the conflict lines while presented separately, are interconnected.
Hence, the Peace and Development Zone (PDZ) initiated by the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) and Regional Development Council (RDC) was established as a banner program to counter insurgency. It is a peace–building initiative/effort that promotes the establishment of durable peace and prevent the recurrence of violence by addressing the root causes and effects of conflict through reconciliation, institution building, and political as well as economic transformation.
Guerilla Bases were declared as PDZs by the RPOC, and the RDC on July 2018 and was launched at Brgy Sicosico, Gigaquit, SDN on August 28, 2018 being graced by no less than Sec Jesus G Dureza, OPAPP, ASEC Mercedita Sombilla, NEDA and other Military and civilian peace stakeholders. After which, series of meetings was held to conduct in-depth analysis on the identified issues in the conflict affected areas and the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.
With the trailblazing achievement set by the Caraga peace stakeholders, the 402nd Brigade acted as key catalyst in synergizing the efforts among peace stakeholders to push forward the government’s effort towards peace and development thru convergence of efforts in various initiatives. Likewise, the Community Support Programs complemented with the Focused Military Operations used as centerpiece framework to address the insurgency problem in Caraga in close cooperation and partnership with the Local Government Units, Local Government Agencies and other stakeholders, have gained significant achievements in driving away CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) from the communities and paving the way for sustainable peace and development.
For the past year, the snow ball of surrenders have rose to an unprecedented number with the government’s revitalized reintegration program, the E-CLIP. Surrenderers realized the futility of the armed struggle and the deception and manipulation made by the CNTs. Since January 2018, a total of two-thousand four-hundred fifty-one (2,451) CNTs and left-leaning organization members and supporters composed of one- hundred eighty (180) regular NPAs, two-hundred eighty-six (286) Milisyang Bayan (MB) and one-thousand nine-hundred ninety-five (1,995) Underground Movement members and supporters, have surrendered and went back to the folds of the law and took an allegiance anew to the government.
Likewise, the immersion of Community Support Program (CSP) Teams in the Barangays in the Brigade’s Area of Responsibility has identified numerous issues encouraging community-based initiatives defined by the local communities. Thru dialogues in assemblies and fora, CSP teams explained the nature of the CNTs and their treachery in infiltrating the barangay thru arouse, organize, mobilize scheme peddled thru deceit and lies resulted to the unparalleled paradigm shift of support by the people. A total of one hundred nine (109) barangays and CADT communities, two (2) municipalities and one (1) province declared the CNTs and its allied left leaning organizations as Persona Non Grata. Said declarations have once and for all ended the influence of CNTs in their areas and accepted the peace and development initiatives of the government they have longed for, for the longest time.
Further, with the relentless focused military operation supported by tip-offs from concerned civilians, a total of one-hundred twenty-one (121) clashes between the troops and the CNTs transpired and resulted to the recovery of one hundred thirty– four (134) assorted firearms and the capture of twenty-two (22) CNTs and killing of thirty (30). Additionally, the discovery and seizure of seventy-one (71) CNT hide outs also proved the unwanted presence of CNTs in the communities indicating that civilians are tired and fed up with the violence and suffering brought about by the CNTs.
Moreover, the creation of Regional Task Force Ending the Local Communist Armed Conflict under EO70 last month has cemented the path to peace and development in Caraga institutionalizing the Whole of Nation Approach in addressing the insurgency problem.
Col Maurito L Licudine, the 402nd Brigade Commander is very optimistic on the operationalization of EO70 which he said even strengthened the Army’s resolved to continue facilitating convergence and sustain the gains in order to end the local armed conflict in Caraga.
“We have the momentum now, while the CNTs and its left leaning organizations desperately imposing threat and terror to influence and control the people, we become more determined to reach the conclusion of this conflict. The launching of the RTF ELCAC is a game changer where agencies and stakeholders speak the same language in addressing the insurgency problem that hounded our country for decades.
The support of the people and the local government units and agencies standing side by side will spell the difference. It’s now or never”, Col Licudine said.
“We are calling on the remaining CNTs and their left-leaning organizations to unite with us and together we shall resolve our conflict in an environment of peace. History has already spoken, armed struggle has only brought us sufferings and derailed our progress. If you aspire for change, then this is the right time to lay down your arms. It is the best time when all people are set and converge for peace, wanting to accelerate and lay the right track in the pursuit for peace and development in Caraga”, Col Licudine ended.