The Philippine Army’s 17th Infantry “Do or Die” Battalion (17IB) of the 5th Infantry Division (5ID), Peacemakers Philippines, and law students from SCINTILLA JURIS (SJ) Professional Confraternity distributed two hundred fifty gift packs to a remote community in Rizal, Cagayan on January 13, 2021.
After daring a muddy mountainous path in an hour-long trek, SJ volunteers and the Army troops reached Barangay Bural, which is one of the three barangays composing Zinundungan Valley.
Zinundungan Valley is a hotspot of several anti-insurgency operations in Cagayan as part of the government’s heightened efforts to terminate the presence of rebel New People’s Army (NPA) in the area.
In December 2020, an encounter between government troops and armed rebels occurred just a few kilometers from the venue of the gift-giving activity in Bural Integrated School.
Troops of the 17th IB uncovered two rebel camps as a result of this operation in Bural.
The gift packs composed of food, clothing, and other essentials were donated by SJ members and donors through the “Sparks for Life” drive, following various natural calamities that hit the province late last year.
Bural was also hit by a flood that affected the locals’ crops, Barangay Bural Chair Evelyn Baloran said. Brgy. Capt. Baloran thanked the troops and volunteers for bringing aid to the barangay, and for the effort to reach their remote village.
“Gusto naming ma-maintain ang peace and order dito kasi ang Barangay Bural, Zinundungan Valley ay tinatawag nilang red area or insurgency area kaya gusto po naming magrequest ng detachment dito sa Bural para mabantayan po kami at para mawala na po ang NPA dito sa amin,” Baloran said.
“Gusto po naming ng pagkakaisa laban sa insurgency dulot ng NPA. Ayaw po naming ang ginawa ng NPA na hiningian ng kung ano man diyan at pagkatapos kaming gamitin ay siraan din po kami,” Baloran added.
17IB Civil-Military Operations Head 1Lt. Lloyd Orbeta said the 17IB has deployed troops in the area upon the request of the barangay.
Orbeta noted the NPA recruitment activities in the area. “Alam natin na pinagsamantalahan sila ng NPA kapag wala yung 17th Infantry Battalion doon. Ngayon, gusto natin silang protektahan doon sa lugar hanggang ma-improve yung Zinundungan Valley,” Orbeta said.
Orbeta said the army has identified the primary and secondary problems faced by Barangay Bural, adding that the 17th IB is continuously coordinating with government agencies to address needs and to extend help to the area.
“Masaya tayo at napuntahan natin ang Zinundungan Valley, especially yung Brgy Bural. Nakita natin ulit yung mga tao doon at napakasaya nila na andun yung ating mga kasundaluhan. Masaya rin tayo dahil nakasama natin yung SCINTILLA JURIS na nagbigay ng relief goods or family packs doon sa mahigit 200 households sa Bural,” Baloran said.
17IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Angelo Saguiguit has been actively strengthening its community support efforts aside from operations in their area of responsibility.
5ID Commander Major General Laurence E. Mina said in a statement that the discovery of the NPA camps, and the confiscation of their equipment and explosives, was “pivotal” for the government.
Cagayan Province Governor Manuel Mamba has taken a tough stand against local communist terror, urging cooperation between military forces and empowered local barangay officials in fighting against insurgency.
Gov. Mamba said development in Zinundigan Valley is underway as the Department of Public Works and Highways is expected to begin the road concreting project here this year.
SJ officer and Peacemakers Philippines president Jervees Herrera said they are delighted and privileged to extend help to Barangay Bural. (Gerard Lucena)