KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/ 12 January)– The 7th Infantry Battalion (IB), one of the battalions under the Army’s 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division, will have a new commander starting Sunday (January 13).
After two years of serving the 7th IB, which is based in Pikit, North Cotabato,
Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao will relinquish his post to his executive officer, Lt. Col. Donald Gumiran, the former’s deputy for nine months.
Hao is leaving to pursue a teaching job at a military school in Manila.
He said his being part of the signing of peace covenants between warring clans in Pikit town was one of his legacies.
Pikit has been the scene of various wars between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces—in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008—that displaced thousands of residents.
Sporadic clashes between warring families and clans due to rido also occurred in the area of responsibility (AOR) of the 7th IB, which covers the towns of Pikit, Carmen, Matalam, and Kabacan in North Cotabato; Pagalungan and Datu Montawal in Maguindanao; and the northern portion of the Ligawasan Marsh.
Clan feuds, Hao said, are considered one of the major problems in his AOR because aside from the casualties, they also caused damage to properties and “crippled” the local economy.
Rido management in the area “is very complex,” thus their strategy was to keep the Army’s presence in the conflict area and try their best to understand the problem, he explained.
When the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) took place on October 15, Hao said they had their own ‘simple celebration’ at their headquarters.
“I am glad we’re part of the signing of the peace agreement even in a small way,” he said.
The 7th IB said that year 2012 is best remembered for the FAB signing.
“We are now experiencing a relevant peace situation locally because of this agreement,” it said.
In his report, Hao said that in August 2012, two months before the FAB signing, a group of bandits tried to disrupt the peace and order in North Cotabato after they were forced to move out of the province of Maguindanao.
“Through the efforts of the military, PNP (Philippine National Police), and the local MILF forces, these bandits fled the area tired and frustrated,” his report added.
During Hao’s two years as commander in war-torn areas in Southwestern Mindanao, he said he learned more about the social, political, and cultural aspects of the people.
“I need to share this knowledge to my Army so that we can serve Mindanao better in the coming years,” he stressed. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)