New Wesmincom chief puts premium on peace process PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 November 2013 10:49

The new commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero said he is putting premium in the peace process, saying it is the “best option” to end armed conflict in Mindanao.

Guerrero assumed the post as commander of the larger military command in Mindanao after Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo retired from the military service on Saturday.

“We will review on the ongoing campaign that would be putting more emphasis on the peace process,” he told journalists here.

Aside from enhancing its security setup and improving the contingency planning, “the peace process is a priority,” he added.

Guerrero’s assumption came as local residents here are reeling from the devastations brought by attacked by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) -Nur Misuari faction that led to the 20-day crisis, killing more than 200 individuals, and displacing 120, 000 people last September.

The attack also led to question military capabilities in protecting Zamboanga as its host city.

“The recent crisis brought about by the rogue MNLF attacked in Zamboanga City was a test of WesMinCom’s readiness,” he said.

Guerrero said taking over the commander of the WestMinCom is “a big challenge” for him.

“Almost all threat groups are here. I have to seek the help of the stakeholders, including the media, so that we will be able to accomplish a significant improvement on peace and order,” he said.

Aside from the presences of Moro rebels, the areas included in the WestMinCom’s responsibilities included armed groups such as Abu-Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, kidnap-for-ransom gangs, Maoist armed guerillas, and recently the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter – a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

At least more than half of the land area in Mindanao are within the WestMinCom’s area of responsibilities – from the southernmost island province of Tawi-Tawi to Maguindanao in Central Mindanao.

Guerrero is not new in these areas. He once served as the brigade commander in Sulu, where he battled Abu-Sayyaf, and kidnap-for-ransom gangs, prior to his appointment as commandant of the Philippine Marines, and commander of the Western Command, which oversaw the conflict in West Philippine Sea.

At present, armed men in Sulu island province are still holding numbers of hostages, including two European bird watchers, who were abducted in 2012, and two moviemakers.

Although, the main military objective is to use its forces in addressing security threats, Guerrero emphasized that putting more importance in the peace process is the ideal solution.

“I’m very sure that through dialogue we will able to settle all these issues. I don’t think the violent way of the settling things is the best option, it’s always the peaceful dialogue, interagency, stakeholders cooperation will be the best path towards peace,” he said.

As a way to push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Mindanao, he said there is a need to enhance the “interagency collaboration especially the local government units and civil society and non-government organizations.”

“The peace efforts are one of the most awaited activity which we hope will bring in destined peace. All of us here at WesMinCom must ensure that the peace mechanism works and it is adhering by all our personnel,” he said referring to the southern peace process between the government and the Moro fronts.

“While pursuing this, let’s not forget our competency in war fighting and our readiness performance as the need arises,” he pointed out.

“Together with the peace rallying people of Mindanao let us stay vigilant and weary of spoilers who will ruin the way to peace,” he said.