Ferrer takes over as EastMinCom chief

No announcement has been made on who will replace Ferrer.

But the name of Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, Jr., has been mentioned as Ferrer’s successor. Cayton once served as 601st Infantry Brigade commander based in Sarangani province.

“Now the ball is yours,” Cunanan said, addressing Ferrer, in his speech, as he described EastMinCom as having the “most challenging situation” in the country, “where the stubborn east meets with the wild, wild, west and together they shake, rattle and roll.”

Yano said Ferrer is “certainly the right person to continue the stability of the command,” and that he has “very high expectations” of him.

EastMinCom was activated on August 28, 2006 after the Zamboanga City-based Southern Command was divided into Eastern and Western Mindanao Commands.

According to its website, EastMinCom’s mission is “to conduct sustained internal security operations in Eastern Mindanao to reduce the capability of the CTM, contain the MILF while supporting the peace process, destroy the ASG and the JI networks, neutralize lawless elements and secure the southern backdoor in order to establish a physically and psychologically secured environment conducive to economic development.”

“CTM” refers to the New People’s Army. In  military jargon, the initials stand for “communist terrorist movement.”

EastMincom’s vision, the website notes, is  “Mindanao’s partner in nation-building; a dynamic, capable and responsive organization that is committed and ready to fulfill its mandate in meeting the challenges and breaking the barriers to peace, progress and development in the region.

The command has jurisdiction over the 4th, 6th and 10th Infantry Divisions, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, Philippine Air Force’s 3rd Tactical Operations Wing, and the 5th Civil Relations Group.

It covers Regions 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Southeastern Mindanao), 12 (Soutwestern Mindanao, popularly known by its old name, Central Mindanao), Caraga (the two Agusans and Surigaos) and Maguindnanao.

It also hosts the biggest brigade, the 1001st Infantry Brigade.

In December 2008, Col. Allan Luga, commander of the Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade said logging, more than the gold or banana, has been a major source of funds for the Southern Mindanao Regional (Party) Committee (of the Communist Party of the Philippines).

Luga said there are seven guerilla fronts with about 450 armed regulars in these areas.

Nationwide, the NPA (New People’s Army) in these areas is ‘the biggest’ and ‘the strongest,’ he said.

‘Not Bicol anymore. That was before,’ Luga said, adding this is ‘why my brigade is also the biggest brigade Army-wide.’

‘They have the most number of people, most number of firearms. Here is where they get most of their resources…. they get a lot of resources here. They get a lot of money here,’ he said citing gold mining in
Diwalwal, logging and banana plantations.

Joel Virador, Bayan Muna Executive Vice President, told MindaNews Saturday night that he hopes Ferrer “will tell his commander-in-chief to resume peace process with the revolutionary forces  — National Democratic Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Rexall Kaalim, Bantay Ceasefire coordinator said he hopes the officer who will take over Ferrer’s post will “do better than Gen. Ferrer” and that he would  “address or answer the human rights violation issues allegedly committed by 6th ID during Gen. Ferrer’s watch.”

Ferrer was chief of the 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur in March 2007 when ordered to switch commands with Maj. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, then 6th ID chief, who was replaced following his handling of the Midsayap clashes that nearly led to the collapse of the  peace talks.

Eighteen persons were killed in the clashes between government troops and the MILF on March 6 and 7, 2007 in Midsayap, North Cotabato. The clashes could have been avoided if the earlier agreements between the government and MILF Coordinating Commitees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) had been observed.

The near collapse of the talks prompted President Arroyo’s issuance of a seven-paragraph policy directive on March 12 that year, reiterating the primacy of the peace process. She also ordered restraint in the use of artillery and aerial bombings during military operations.

Before his appointment as 1st Infantry Division chief, Ferrer was commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Basilan. It was there where he began his peacebuilding work in partnership with non-government organizations like the Catholic Children’s Fund and Peace Advocates Zamboanga.

As 1st ID chief and later as 6th ID chief, he teamed up with the Cagayan de Oro-based Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. for peace-building trainings for his men. Hundreds of officers, enlisted and members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit – took the BMFI  Operation Peace Course (dubbed OPKORS!), an intensive seminar-workshop spanning four days. The sessions include a history of the conflict in Mindanao, the island’s diverse cultures, discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses, the soldier’s role in society, dialogue skills, conflict management, and even exercises to keep the body and mind fit.  

In his speech at the parade grounds this morning, Ferrer acknowledged the presence of his parents (his father is a retired colonel), wife and children and also “partners in peacebuilding,” specifically citing the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute and Deng Guiguiento, one of his teachers there.

“I  hope we can do more trainings after this,” he said. [See other story] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)