Military unfazed by Davao City’s withdrawal of fund support

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 July) – Security operations in the city will continue even if the local government has decided to withdraw funding support for the military, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.

But Gazmin, who told reporters the armed forces will do so by utilizing all available resources, said he believes that Mayor Sara Duterte does not intend to also deny support for the military’s non-combat activities.

“I believe Mayor Duterte may have some good reasons in withdrawing the support. I believe the city government will use the funds to other non-combat activities to end insurgency,” he said.

Gazmin, a retired general, said he would like to know if the military has some shortcomings that prompted the mayor to cut the support.

The secretary added that aside from talking to the commanders under the Eastern Mindanao Command he will also meet with local government officials.

Last week, Duterte announced she was withdrawing the city government’s support to the 1003rd Infantry Brigade (IB) starting August this year.

The mayor said she disagrees with the counterinsurgency measures for the city as contained in the brigade’s Internal Security Operations (ISO) submitted by 1003rd Brigade Commander Brigadier Gen. Eduardo del Rosario.

In her letter to del Rosario, Duterte said: “The regular reports of armed confrontations between the military and the NPA [New People’s Army], which are most likely to be offshoots of your ISO is projecting disorder in the city and this type of approach to the insurgency problem is contrary to what I believe in.”

The continued combat operations against the NPA are futile and counterproductive for all stakeholders, she added.

Del Rosario asserted a “combat-heavy” strategy in fighting the NPAs in the city.

He admitted that the city government is giving at least P130,000 monthly financial assistance to purchase food supplies for two Army battalions under the brigade.

These battalions are operating in the hinterlands of the city like Paquibato and Malagos districts, both of which are known to be NPA fronts.

But Duterte maintained that this strategy has wasted the lives and properties of soldiers, Lumads, NPA, civilians and local government units in a cat and mouse game.

She said the city government would rather invest in a comprehensive rebel returnee program, Lumad literacy empowerment, or other developmental projects that have effective and lasting results for the society and which would also address the general grievance of the NPA members.

Outgoing 10th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza also believes the insurgency in the city cannot be solved by combat operations alone.

Holganza, who is set to be transferred to national headquarters, said he favors implementing the non-combat strategy of the city through civil military operations.

Meanwhile, Duterte said the city government will continue supporting the counterterrorism efforts of  Task Force Davao. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)