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Villanueva to pursue peace despite breakdown of talks

CAGAYAN de Oro City–Despite the breakdown of negotiations between the government and the Communist rebels, the newly installed commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) remains optimistic that the conflict in Mindanao will end as he vowed to pursue peace during his term.

“We will seek for peace because that’s what our government and the people want. If peace is elusive, we still seek for [it],” said Major General Ronald Villanueva.

Villanueva, who headed the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), replaced Major General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. as the 4ID commander, who was reassigned as the chief of the Southern Luzon Command.

Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda, the commanding general of the Philippine Army, graced the turn-over of command ceremony.

The task to achieving peace may be daunting for the new 4ID leader, but Villanueva said he will work to attain it since “we don’t want war because we are all Filipinos.”

The 4ID area of responsibility covers the Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions where the New People’s Army (NPA) has a strong presence.

Villanueva said he will also continue the programs that Madrigal had started.

“I’ll just have to follow it. All existing directives, policies will remain in effect until we see the need to replace it,” he added.

During his 17-month term, Madrigal has “achieved numerous breakthrough results,” according to Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, the 4ID spokesperson.

With Madrigal’s leadership, a total of 239 NPA members had either surrendered, captured, or killed during combat operations. Some 243 assorted firearms and 125 improvised explosive devices were also recovered from the enemies.

With the cooperation of law enforcement agencies, the 4ID during Madrigal’s time was able to help in the arrest of 140 suspected drug personalities, and confiscation of different types of illegal substances, particularly marijuana and shabu(crystal meth), with an estimated market value of P41 million.

The outgoing 4ID commander was also the proponent of the Bayanihan Oversight and Advisory Committee (BOAC), a “whole-of-government” approach where everybody is empowered and focused on addressing the concerns in conflict-affected areas.

BOAC is the venue for all concerned agencies to direct and focus their programs for the people with the same targets and timelines. It is composed of different local chief executives, agency heads, local leaders, Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is established in almost all towns and cities in Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

Madrigal also managed to bring the 4ID to greater heights as it achieved the fourth and final stage of the Army Governance Pathway, which is the “Institutionalized Status.”

The Division, Martinez said, is the first Philippine Army major unit to have achieved such status with Gold Trailblazer award after passing the revalidation on June 5, 2017 at the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
Said award was given to the 4ID during Wednesday’s turn-over ceremony.

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