THE newly-installed commander of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) vowed to intensify its operations against the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., the EastMinCom chief, said on Thursday that he would be primarily addressing the extortion activities of NPA rebels.
Madrigal said he would need community support, particularly from the areas of Indigenous People (IP).
“We will address the extortion because that is the reason why there are some joining [the NPA], because they have financial support. So, we really need to address the extortion activities,” he told reporters over phone.
“If we will be able to put a stop [on the NPA’s extortion], it will have an effect to their recruitment capabilities as well,” Madrigal said.
Before he was appointed as the EastMinCom chief, Madrigal was designated to lead the military’s Southern Luzon Command last August and vowed to address the atrocities of the NPA rebels in Southern Luzon.
He assumed the EastMinCom’s top post, replacing Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
According to Madrigal, the military was continuing its focused operations against the NPA but admitted that even with its combat operations, the communist rebels pursued its recruitment among civilians.
“We need to destroy their so-called support system and the underground mass organization…but this will require the assistance of the other sectors because this is not just about vigilance, but also to address the needs and livelihood services and therefore, it will be easier to get the support especially those in the far areas,” he said.
Madrigal is a member of Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class of 1985.
He was formerly commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division before becoming Solcom Commander based in Camp Gen. Nakar, Lucena City, Laguna on August 18.
Major Ezra Balagtey, EastMinCom Public Information Officer (PIO), said that Madrigal was not new to the security landscape in Eastern Mindanao having been deployed here before>
He described Madrigal as a “mission-focused-leader”.
“He is not new to Eastern Mindanao being the former Commander of 701st Infantry Brigade based in Mati, Davao Oriental; Assistant Division Commander of 10th Infantry Division based in Mawab, Compostela Valley; and subsequently, Commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, based in Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan De Oro City,” Balagtey said.
Madrigal will be taking on the responsibility of keeping the peace and preventing terrorism in Davao, CARAGA, parts of Northern and Southern Mindanao. DEMPSEY REYES, KAROL JOSEF LUCENA