New Commander of 67th IB Vows to Sustain Peace Efforts, Collaboration with Partners in AOR

DAVAO ORIENTAL— Newly-installed Commander of the Philippine Army’s 67th Infantry “Agila” Battalion based in Baganga, Davao Oriental has vowed to continue the towering legacy of his predecessors in winning peace in the battalion’s areas of operation.

The youngest Battalion Commander under the 10th Infantry Division who has “big shoes” to fill in, Lt. Col. Louie Dema-ala assured the sustainability of the innovative peace programs initiated by the sterling leadership of Lt. Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado during the change of command ceremony held at the battalion’s headquarters in Barangay Salingcomot in the municipality of Baganga on May 16. 

“I will carry on with the policies and programs you have started and will innovate and explore further to improve the unit’s internal and external operations. Rest assured that I will continue your thrust and pursue the platforms you have instituted and advocated for,” Lt. Col. Dema-ala addressed Lt. Col. Obligado.

Despite his familiarity with the peace and order situation in the province after serving the 701st Brigade in 2015 as an Executive Officer, Lt. Col. Dema-ala said that sustaining the programs pioneered by his predecessor is a challenge for him.

In just two years and three months after Lt. Col. Obligado first assumed command, the battalion was able to neutralize the enemies in the red and white areas through cooperation management.

“We have always been applying the model of conflict management, but I believe that more than that what we are applying should be cooperation management,” said Lt. Col. Obligado whose leadership is widely known to have always been centered on the convergence of efforts with Local Government Units and different National Government Agencies.

“In cooperation management, we manage cooperation, we accomplish our mission by means of commonalities of objectives. While in conflict management we only resolve issues according to arguments and the solution of conflict management would be a compromise. While for cooperation management the solution would always be collaboration. True to say, with all the stakeholders here present, 67 IB was able to promote and advocate for cooperation among all the stakeholders, giving credit to the Provincial Government-led Nagkakaisang Lingkod-Bayan ng Davao Oriental Barangay Outreach Caravan (NLD-BOC),” he added.

He said NLD-BOC has been instrumental in earning the trust of the public, especially those who were in the communist insurgent’s movement, as it has made the people feel the government’s presence even in the farthest communities.

Out of the 102 former rebels who surrendered in his area of responsibility, Lt. Col. Obligado said, 83 of them surrendered to the local government units, particularly the barangays.

“These former rebels are regular members of the armed groups. I’m very proud that they were not neutralized mainly because of the military operations. Maybe 75 to 80% can be credited to the efforts of the local government. Military operations, intelligence operations, are only secondary,” Lt. Col. Obligado said.

These surrenders have led to the recovery of 28 high-powered firearms, 1 low powered firearm, and other weapons. In separate military operations, they have also recovered 48 assorted high-powered firearms and 5 assorted low-powered firearms.

“The key to the success of Davao Oriental really is the Local Government Units. We in the military are just mainly on support role because the main effort really is the Local Chief Executives and the community themselves. So, we are really proud of the local government units because they have given to us their all-out support. Once the local government units will really function there is no way that the enemy will be able to infiltrate, because once the local government unit will deliver the services needed in the far-flung areas, to the less fortunate communities, there will be no more reasons for the enemy to be able to exploit the propaganda against the government,” he added.

Lt. Col. Obligado also gave credit to the strengthened barangay structure, saying that “they are the key to the peace and order situation of the government.”

Aiming to prevent social issues from becoming a threat to security, Lt. Col. Obligado, together with other military officials, formed groups of native volunteers concentrating on Infrastructure, Community Defense, Disaster Preparedness, Education and Livelihood under the province’s Community Support Program (CSP). Through this, the unit has also been able to train peace volunteers by capacitating them to protect their ancestral lands from lawless elements.

To reinforce the government’s effort in earning the public’s trust and confidence, Lt. Col. Obligado advocated for a more strengthened information dissemination by initiating the Project MIC or the Massive Information Campaign which provided government agencies a platform to disseminate information about their services. This was done during the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s 4P’s payout.

Through the CMO Platoon Quick Reaction Patrol teams he has organized, 13 barangays influenced by red area operations have been cleared, while the white area operations of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas has been disrupted.

Also, he led the unit in a joint operation with the local police and other government line agencies in drug-bust operations and further initiated the Battalion Mobile Farm.

Noting Lt. Col. Obligado’s massive accomplishments, Lt. Col. Dema-ala takes on the challenge of sustaining the peace and order efforts of the battalion, even committing to finish the remaining threats to security with the LGUs and NGAs at the forefront.

“I am aware that along with my commander’s hopefulness are the towering expectations of many officers and personnel of 67th Infantry Battalion. Let us work together and integrate our actions as part of a comprehensive approach to achieve our mission. We will destroy all remaining armed groups, dismantle the remaining guerilla fronts, support our adjacent battalions in clearing the respective areas of operations. And we will advance the gains of the Community Support Programs in the first district of Davao Oriental,” Lt. Col. Dema-ala said.

The province’s powerhouses of peace and development, First District Representative Corazon Malanyaon and Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, have manifested their all-out support to the new battalion commander.

Cong. Malanyaon, who was the person behind the successful implementation of the Happy Home facility for former rebels through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), committed to continue collaborating with the 67th IB.

“Personally, and officially I will afford you the same support that we gave to your predecessor Jake as well as to all your other predecessors in the past,” she said.

Also, Governor Dayanghirang declared that “we in the provincial government and other local officials are ready to support you to achieve our common goal which is to attain peace.”

Presiding the Change of Command Ceremony was the 10th Infantry Division Assistant Division Commander Col. Rodolfo Lavadia Jr. who represented Major General Jose Faustino. By Riza M. Golez/Photos by Eden Jhan Licayan