BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The newly-installed head of an Army brigade here has encouraged the commanders of his line battalions and units to innovate amid an enemy that is also adjusting its tactics on the battlefield.
And this, to Colonel Michael Samson, could be the reason why the 303rd Infantry Brigade has started 2023 with battlefield wins against two rebel fronts, scoring two rebel kills and the capture of three ranking ones.
Samson told DNX a change in command and the start of a new year usually ushers in adjustments, like in the case of the 303rd that saw its former commander then Brigadier General Innocencio Pasaporte, retiring December, last year, and Samson, formerly his deputy, assuming as officer-in-charge.
Past the first week of January 2023, Samson’s line units reported successive armed clashes with Communist rebels with a rebel reported killed in both instances.
The 9 January 2023 skirmish involved a rifle unit of the 94th Battalion that clashed with at least 10 armed regulars of the New People’s Army in Malikoliko, a community in the upland village of Carabalan in Himamaylan City.
The rebels fled after a brief firefight and left behind their dead fighter.
This was followed on 10 January 2023 by a clash in Banderahan, another mountain community in Trinidad village, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.
The rebels also abandoned a dead fighter.
The series of gunfights came after three ranking rebels, described as remnants of the Northern Negros Front, were captured in a joint operation of the National Police and the 79th Battalion.
“It was just a general call for them to innovate, I did not mention anything in particular,” Samson said when asked by DNX if he specified to unit commanders what area of operations to innovate on.
The current approach to counterinsurgency in the Philippines according to published reports involves the triad concept that mixes intelligence, combat, and civil military operations in both rural and urban areas.
Since the Duterte government, the Army had been intensifying its Retooled Community Support Program under a whole-of-nation-approach through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
The 303rd has three maneuver battalions, each covering the area of operations of a guerrilla front roughly equivalent to a political district of the government.
The 79th commanded by Lt. Col. J-Jay Javines is based in Bato village, Sagay City and covers the first district to parts of the sixth, and the lone district of the city.
The 62nd Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Pesase Jr. is based in Sikatuna village in Isabela town while the 94th is based in the village of Tambo in the Negros Oriental town of Ayungon.
All three units have been cited by Army higher ups for various achievements in the past years.
Samson, however, told DNX the NPA had been adjusting its tactics as a guerrilla force but Army commanders and soldiers, however, are gaining more experience and are mastering the lay of their given areas not only in terms of terrain but also the socio-political and economic context of the armed rebellion in Negros island.
The 303rd under Pasaporte oversaw a campaign that led to the battlefield death of regional NPA commander Romeo Nanta in a skirmish with 94th Battalion soldiers in Carabalan, and months later, the death of top Communist cadre Ericson Acosta whose body was found after a clash with soldiers of the same Army unit in upland Kabankalan City.