By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

(File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday called on the military to take a new approach in addressing internal conflict, encouraging them to become “peacemakers” while fighting rebel groups.

Speaking to troops during his visit to Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, Marcos cited the need for the government forces to seek peace, as much as possible, to avoid possible armed conflict with insurgents.

“Iba ang ating approach sa ating (We have different approach in our) internal conflicts that we have within the Philippines at hinihingi natin sa ating mga sundalo ay kailangan maging (and we are asking our soldiers to be) war fighter and we still need war fighters and we still need the courage and the bravery and the sacrifice that you have shown,” Marcos said in a speech delivered at the of the headquarters of 401st Infantry Brigade (IB).

“But now there is an additional dimension to the job that you have. ‘Yung mission ninyo ay hindi lang ‘yung giyera kung hindi (is not just about waging a war, but) you have to be also peacemakers at (and) they must remember that kahit papaano, ang kaharap natin, Pilipino din yan (somehow, we are fighting against our fellow Filipinos),” he added.

Marcos also urged the military to support government programs providing livelihood, land, shelter assistance to rebels wanting to return to the fold of the law.

This, as he lauded the soldiers for their efforts to improve the security situation in the Caraga Region.

“Congratulations for the good work that you have done. Kagaya nga nang sinulat ko doon sa (Just like what I write in the) guestbook, keep up the good work. Congratulations sa inyong (to your) successes,” he said.

Joint Task Force (JTF) Diamond (4th Infantry Division), composed of the Army’s 401st, 402nd, 403rd, and 901st IB, covers most parts of Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

The JTF Diamond’s accomplishments included the neutralization of 200 communist rebels or terrorists and seizure of 311 firearms.

About 144 of the 200 rebels surrendered, 44 were killed, and 12 were captured.

From 2021 to present, the troops under the 4th ID helped facilitate the surrender of 2,596 former rebels, with 2,167 or 83 percent of them already awarded with benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

The E-CLIP grants financial assistance, livelihood training and grants, firearm remuneration, and housing and education assistance to former rebels.

There is a reported downtrend in the presence of insurgents in the JTF Diamond’s area of responsibility, from 437 rebels in the first quarter of 2023, showing a decline by 28.6 percent to 312, as of Feb. 15, 2024.

Amid the military’s anti-insurgency campaign, two regional insurgent groups with a total of 312 members and 306 firearms have retreated to the mountains and no longer influence nearby villages. (PNA)