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CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – A seasoned combat officer assumed command of the Philippine Army’s 203rd Infantry (Bantay Kapayapaan) Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over Mindoro and Romblon on Thursday.

Major General Arnulfo Marcelo B Burgos Jr, Commander of the 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division, presided the formal transfer of authority, responsibility and accountability from BGen Antonio Lastimado to Colonel Jose Augusto Villareal during a ceremony at Brgy Pag-asa of Bansud, Oriental Mindoro.

The “simplified” change of command ceremony was conducted in a “Covid-protocol-compliant manner” which is becoming the new norm in the military organization as soldiers begin to find ways to perform their missions while “co-existing” with the deadly corona virus.

In his speech, Maj Gen Burgos conveyed his heartfelt congratulations to BGen Lastimado for a “job well done for being at the forefront of military campaign in the region which dealt the enemies-of-the-state with decisive blows that have pushed them on the verge of irreversible collapse.”

“Aside from the creation of TFs ELCAC at all levels coupled with the subsequent declaration of the NPAs as persona non grata and the numerous encounters and recoveries in combat, the unprecedented giving of consent by the local leaders for the creation of local peace coordinating council will go down in history as BGen Lastimado’s greatest accomplishment and lasting contribution in his tour of duty as brigade commander”, said Maj Gen Burgos.

BGen Lastimado is set to become the Deputy Commander of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command which directs and orchestrates all military operations in CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Bicol Regions.

A “Military Merit Medal Interim to Distinguished Service Star” was conferred to BGen Lastimado for meritorious achievements in a position of major responsibility.

BGen Lastimado expressed his “utmost gratitude to the men and women of the 203rd Brigade as well as to our stakeholders for the unwavering dedication to duty and unparalleled support” which they extended upon him during his stint as Brigade Commander.

He attributed his success as Commander to his “hardworking and brave officers and men as well as to the MIMAROPAN’s collective desire to end insurgency and poverty which made things happen for the government, for the people and for the region as a whole.”

Col Villareal, a native of Lanao Del Sur and a graduate of Philippine Military Academy “Bigkis Lahi” Class of 1990, was the 2nd Infantry Division’s Chief of Staff for more than a year prior to his designation as Brigade Commander.

He went up the ladder of the military organization from being a platoon leader and company commander of 58th Infantry Battalion in Mindanao to being the Commanding Officer of the 1st Infantry Battalion based in Laguna.

Col Villareal committed to “sustain what the 203rd Brigade has so far achieved then further increase operational tempo with a sense of urgency so that peace may finally be won and our constituents will begin living the prosperous life that every Filipino truly deserves.”

He vowed that his “soldiers will be a friend, a sibling and a partner of our constituents, partner agencies and the general public as we pursue the goals of every peace-loving citizen” while addressing the few remaining NPAs in the island to “speak with the government and heed the nation’s call for unity and reconciliation or suffer the tragic end which peace spoilers are destined to meet.”

The past 11 years of his career has been with 2ID thereby making him well-versed to the intricacies of the ever-changing operational environment of Southern Tagalog.

He added that with BGen Lastimado at the helm, “soldiers of 203rd Brigade became active partners and members of MIMAROPA’s Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict which fast-tracked the delivery of government services to the grassroots thereby paving the way for the much coveted peace, prosperity and development in this part of the country.”

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