TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte-The outgoing commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion takes pride of having won the hearts of the Ata-Manobo elders of Talaingod.
In his farewell address, Lt. Col Edwin M. Paredes took note of the good points that the 56th IB had made under his watch, taking special mention of the support that it gained from community leaders whom he and his troopers befriended.
In less than one year, the 56th IB with the operational assistance of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, was able to convince Datu Guibang Apoga to turn back from the New People's Army and join the mainstream after going against the government for about 30 years.
The one year and a half stint of Paredes in Talaingod yielded the arrest of two high ranking personalities from alleged guerilla fronts for kidnapping and child-trafficking. The influence of the 56th IB led to closure of most of the salugpungan schools in Talaingod.
Stationed in Talaingod, Davao del Norte early last year, the 56th Infantry Battalion is under the 7th Infantry "Kaugnay" Division of the Philippine Army based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
Paredes also expressed satisfaction that the command under his watch was free of any human rights complaints.
In her message during the turnover ceremony to the newly designated 56th IB commander, Lt Col. Norman E. Valdez, Talaingod Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Pilar Libayao relayed the melancholic reaction of fellow community leaders as they learned of Paredes' relief of duty as commander of the 56th Inf Bat.
"Hawiran unta sa mga lumad. Nakita nila nga walay abuso, mao kini ang maka peaceful," (They would not let go of Col. Paredes. They saw no cases of abuse. This brings peace) she said.
Libayao also appealed to high ranking military officials present during the event to "help Talaingod" saying some of its community leaders had died referring to long years of reported encroachment of New People's Army (NPA) operation falling prey on Ata Manobo members as recruits.
On the other hand, incoming 56th IB commander, Lt Col Norman Valdez congratulated outgoing commander Paredes "for changing the landscape of Talaingod communities by winning support of the Ata-Manobos and by driving away the armed rebels.
To sustain the relative peace, Valdez asked for continued support of stakeholders, community leaders, local government officials saying "he cannot do this alone" without the collaborative effort of everyone in Talaingod.
Addressing the 56th IB troopers, Valdez challenged them "to keep our torch burning exercising high standards of excellence". (PIA XI/ Jeanevive Duron Abangan)