The newly-installed commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) vowed on Saturday to put an end to the communist insurgency and bring genuine peace in his area of responsibility.
“Anchoring on the intent of the Commander in Chief to end local communist armed conflict, as stated in the Executive Order 70, the Eastern Mindanao Command will remain resolute in its commitment to comply and endeavour to defeat the communist terrorist group and to finally declare the Filipino people as victors against these menace of the society which has been causing chaos, economic sabotage, and exploitation of the vulnerable communities for more than 50 years now,” Major General Jose Faustino said in his speech during the change of command ceremony held here.
Faustino assumed the command from acting EastMinCom chief, Brigadier General Alfredo Rosario. Prior to his new assignment, Faustino led the Army’s 10th Infantry Division while Rosario held the EastMinCom post in a temporary capacity after its chief, General Felimon Santos, was named as AFP chief-of-staff.
“The Eastern Mindanao Command has spearheaded the fight against the communist terrorists for several years already, and our efforts and innovations in ending local communist armed conflict have become the benchmark of success for the whole AFP,” said the 55-year-old official, who once served as chief of the 11th Intelligence Service Unit in Davao City.
“We will continue to do so. Not because it is part of our mission, but because it is the righteous thing to do in my almost three decades of service to the nation,” Faustino said.
“I have come to understand not just the ideology behind this communist terrorist group but also the endless manipulations, the deceptions, the utter horror brought about this group to our children, to our families. Countless innocent children have died, families broken, and parents suffering from the loss of their loved ones. Enough is enough. this has to end,” he pointed out.
Faustino, whose area of responsibility covers half of Mindanao’s land area, said he will “take the fight to the heart of their ideology, to the center of their comfort zones, and to the deepest and remotest guerrilla bases.”
“We will not tire. We will not falter. We will break them hard so that no Filipino will become hostage to this godless communist ideology ever again,” he said.
Active participation of LGU through good governance
Faustino said he is taking advantage of every opportunity to find solutions to the decades-long armed rebellion.
“Before, ending this insurgency is just a dream, a longing. While others have seen this as a dark tunnel with no end in sight, Eastern Mindanao Command has seen it otherwise,” he said.
“For several generations, we have come to believe that the insurgency is a very complicated conflict. But here, this is no longer the case, because at this very moment, the Eastern Mindanao Command is no longer alone in this fight,” Faustiono noted.
“Our stakeholders, the local chief executives – from barangay chairmen, mayors, governors, representatives; the different national and local government agencies, and bureaus, people’s organizations, private individuals, and business groups, have all mustered their strength and rallied behind us,” he said.
According to Faustino, good governance will be the key in addressing the communist rebellion, which is embodied in the “Whole-of-Nation” approach adopted by the government under Executive Order No. 70.
“The solution is quite simple – good governance and unity. Our indefatigable leaders, including the whole government machinery, have come to realize and set the bar on how to turn a dream into reality,” he said.
Faustino said a majority of NPA members who surrendered to the command were facilitated by local government units.
“Indeed this is a very good indicator of the growing trust and confidence of our communities to our local local officials and to the local government. It also indicates that our local government units are really participating to attain our common goal of establishing conflict-resilient communities,” he said.
“I am calling perceived enemies of the state who are continually holding ground to conduct atrocities against innocent people, especially to our less fortunate brothers and sisters, to join the mainstream of the society,” Faustino added.
Heightened campaign against communist group
Meanwhile, Santos said he expects the EastMinCom to heighten its campaign against the communist terrorist group with Faustino at the helm.
He revealed that EastMinCom has cleared five guerrilla fronts of the communist group, dismantled four Pulang Bagani Commands, and neutralized a large number of New People’s Army members, including high value personalities.
“We also gained several surrenderees that can be attributed to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s sustained programs for former rebels and continuous engagement with Indigenous People leaders,” he said.
Santos also expressed his gratitude to stakeholders for the unwavering support they have given to the AFP in its fight against communist group.
“I have witnessed how you effectively converged your efforts and fulfilled your role in the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict,” he said. PEACE.GOV.PH