Major General Aurelio Baladad oversees Filipino troops based in communist strongholds
Baladad, the 8th commander Eastmincom, replaced Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III who will retire from the military on September 6. Eastmincom is relatively a new command in the Philippine military, which used to just have one command – the Western Command based in
Zamboanga City – overseeing all Armed Forces troops and
facilities in Mindanao. Eastmincom covers
communist hot spots such as the Davao region,
Caraga, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, as well as Sarangani, South Cotabato, North
Cotabato, and .
The area is host to about 2,000 New People's Army (NPA) members or about half
of the estimated strength of the armed wing of the Communist People's Party
(CPP), based on military estimates. General
Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr attended the turnover ceremony here and encouraged soldiers to work harder to ensure peace and stability in
Baladad accepted the challenge. "To the people of
I am reporting for duty. Rest assured that the team EastMinCom will work for
the achievement of lasting peace and development," Baladad said.
The bemedalled Baladad is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and is a member of the “Sandigan” Class of 1982.
Before his promotion, Baladad was the commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in the Visayas. Baladad was also the former commanding officer of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal.
It was during his Tanay stint when he was linked to alleged human rights abuses. As brigade commander he led the arrest of the so-called "Morong 43" – a group of people tagged by the military as NPA members but who, according to human rights groups, turned out to be health workers. Baladad and other soldiers involved in the arrest were accused of human rights violations before the Commission on Human Rights.
In 2012, he was designated as the assistant division commander of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division in the Bicol region.
Meanwhile, the retiring Cruz was recognized for "effectively implementing" Internal Peace and Security Plan “BAYANIHAN” through the command's own campaign plan dubbed as “PANAGDAIT MINDANAW II.”
The military claimed that under the command of Cruz at least 247 members of the NPA surrendered while more than 273 assorted firearms were recovered.
Cruz also led the arrest of two suspected front secretaries and two regional secretaries of the CPP.