Journey: A Glimpse into the Life in the Service of Lt. Gen. Rolando D. Bautista, the 59th Commanding General of the Philippine Army (Chapter 2)

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On the 7th of August 2014, then COL ROLANDO JOSELITO D BAUTISTA, assumed the command of the 104th Infantry (SULTAN) Brigade in Brgy Tabiawan, Isabela City, Basilan Province from the then BGEN CARLITO G GALVEZ JR AFP.

Knowing the prodigious responsibility he accepted, he earnestly looked forward to taking on whatever was left for him to continue and accomplish from his predecessor, never forgetting his personal advocacy of giving attention to the welfare of the men and women in uniform, as well as the communities in his new Area of Responsibility (AOR).

Some of the gallant men from the 3rd Scout Ranger (Excelsior) Battalion (3SRB) under the operational control of the 104th Infantry (Sultan) Brigade of COL BAUTISTA

The operations of his new brigade primarily covered the Province of Basilan, an area that was considered the lair of Isnilon Hapilon and his infamous ASG group.

His priorities were: to monitor, track, and crack down on the atrocious activities of Isnilon Hapilon and the ASG, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), allied groups, and other lawless elements; to make the people of Basilan feel safe and protected; to deliver basic services even to far-flung areas of their Area of Responsibility: to work hand in hand with the local and provincial authorities, other agencies of government, and the PNP so that they can effectively carry out their mandate and serve the communities; to empower the human resource of the 104Bde; to preserve the natural resources, culture, and traditions of the people of Basilan.

As such Guidelines were drawn for Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSO): to contribute to the success of the Peace Process; to facilitate the establishment of conditions in order for the civil authorities to take on responsibility; to support development, Disaster Risk and Reduction Management (DRRM) programs; to provide assistance in law enforcement activities; and to adhere to the Philippine Army’s – Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) in maintaining professionalism and combat effectiveness.

These translated to Focused Military Operations (FMOs) that achieved the new guidelines of the BRIGADE COMMANDER. The 104Bde strongly supported the efforts of the National and Local Government (LGU) together with other government agencies in conducting Law Enforcement Operations (LEO) in collaboration with the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) which resulted in significant arrests and seizure of contraband and illegal firearms.

Social responsibility programs were initiated with the communities to unify and stimulate them to take on an active role against terrorism and criminality in order to have peace in their areas of residence.

Among the concerns of social responsibility meant taking care of the health of the community.

The conduct of a Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) drew 126 participants from various municipalities. A ‘Football for Peace’ through the auspices of the 18th Infantry Battalion (18IB) fostered brotherhood among the youth, harnessed their athletic abilities, and gave them a healthy outlet for their
robust energy.

To deradicalized minors from the traumatic experiences of conflict a program called ‘Children of War’ for the orphans and child victims of conflict was undertaken and prioritized together with the collaboration of the NGOs and LGUs of Lamitan City which was aimed at frustrating any inclination of the youth to participate in terrorist or criminal activities at the present time or in the future, and to give them a creative and productive alternative in life.

Security operations were provided for the construction of the Basilan Circumferential Road (BCR), a flagship project of the government – a vital necessity for development to reach Basilan and the rest of ARMM.

Given that the terrorist groups were against the creation of the BCR, the 104Bde secured the lives of the workers, protected the machinery/equipment from arson, secured the people and communities living in the vicinity, prevented extortion attempts of suppliers, and aborted kidnapping attempts of the contractors and their crew.

The peaceful conduct of the 9th May 2016 presidential elections throughout the ARMM earned for the 104Bde a commendation from the Commission on Elections.

These involved coordination and enlisting the support of the Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman, the Basilan Ulama Council, and the LGUs.

Local ‘rido’ settlements were also undertaken by the 104Bde to ensure peace in the community. Clan feuds are one of the biggest contributors to lawlessness and violence.

To further, the 104Bde peace efforts through livelihood assistance projects, a series of engagements were done in coordination with the LGUs and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Dialogues and linkages with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were established.

A personal friendship was also established between Col Bautista and Hadji Dan Asnawi, Commander of 114th Base Command (114BC), Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), to hasten coordination during FMO in the MILF areas.

A national greening campaign was advocated with 5,000 mangrove
trees planted and 2,150 non-fruit bearing trees also planted.

Under the leadership of COL BAUTISTA, the 104Bde continued their efforts to fight and disrupt the enemy’s ruthless activities which resulted in a series of successful operations.

They were able to seize the enemy’s stronghold, which was later identified as an IED factory, and were able to confiscate or recover IED components, capture relevant and seditious documents, and various personal belongings. They were able to successfully rescue kidnap victims, and more so, they were able to convince some ASG members to surrender to the folds of the law.

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