More troops deployed in Caraga, North Mindanao vs NPA

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Some 500 soldiers troops deployed have been added to the ranks of the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division (4ID) to help combat the New People’s Army (NPA) in Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions.

The augmentation force consisted of troops from the 65th Infantry Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division — units that were previously assigned in Lanao del Sur to handle various armed groups in the province, said 4ID spokesperson Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez.

They were formally welcomed to the 4ID camp in Barangay Patag here in a simple ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Martinez said the 65IB had been in Lanao del Sur for about 10 years and figured in numerous combat operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf, in the past.

Recently, the unit fought the Maute group during the Marawi siege last year.

The troops also have experienced acting as peacekeepers on some of the violent clan feud among several Maranao families in Lanao del Sur.

“These are battle-hardened soldiers,” Martinez said, adding their combat experience would help their colleagues in the 4ID in fighting the NPA within the division’s area of responsibility in Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

Martinez said that Caraga, Northern Mindanao, and Compostela Valley in the Davao region were three of the areas where the bulk of the NPA units operate, and where half of the rebels’ forces nationwide were based.

Prior to their field troops deployed, the soldiers will undergo a series of lectures including refresher courses on cultural sensitivity and human rights focusing on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights (CARHRIHL).

In his message to the troops, Brig. Gen. Cristobal Zaragoza, the assistant division commander for operations, said, “We expect that you will bear the professionalism as you execute your tasks. We support the intent of [Pres. Duterte] to protect the state and the people. Again, be reminded that you have to perform only your duty as a disciplined soldier.“ (Jigger J. Jerusalem/PNA)