From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 26): Divinagracia out, Batayola in as 1st Cavalry Squadron commander
LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur – Lt. Col. Charlemagne Batayola Jr. has assumed Thursday as the new commander of the 1st Cavalry Squadron, Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army, which is based here, vice Lt. Col. Antonio John Divinagracia who has been transferred to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Commissary Exchange Service (AFPCES), General Headquarters, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
In a change of command ceremony held at Camp Jacobe E. Zobel here, MGen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, Mechanized Infantry Division commander and the event’s guest of honor and speaker, said the transfer of military officials to their new assignments “is one of the programs and reforms implemented by the higher command” to provide quality of service to the stakeholders. “These measures are continuing steps to realize our vision of becoming a world class army that is a source of national pride,” he added.
Apart from our intent to institute changes, Dela Cruz said, “this activity demonstrates flexibility and versatility of our senior officers in the 1st Cavalry Squadron in carrying out their tasks effectively in the different working environments and more importantly, this also endeavors to rationalize the job placement of our officers as we hope to attain efficiency among them.”
Dela Cruz also commended Divinagracia for his efforts that contributed to the accomplishment of the army’s mission in the region.
“Your efforts are definitely not in vain for you have contributed much to the accomplishment of our mission in this part of region. Indeed, you have delivered your duty exceptionally well,” Dela Cruz stressed.
With the incoming commander’s enthusiasm and adherence to the army’s mandate, Dela Cruz believed he would continue to propel the unit to significant achievements through his personal and professional undertakings.
“I want you to focus on your role as new commander in this unit. Build up your knowledge and experience while establishing stronger networks to our key stakeholders,” he urged adding “take pride in the uniform you wear as you perform your patriotic duty as protector of the people and the state like what you did during the Zamboanga crisis in September 2013.”
“Let us preserve our gains and continue working with the different agencies of government as we fulfill our mission for the people of Western Mindanao. We should not rest in our laurels. Instead, we let our accomplishments challenge us to do more and continually pursue excellence in all our undertakings,” Dela Cruz concluded.
The fierce and bloody firefight in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao started at around 2:30 AM on Sunday and lasted for several hours. The MILF suffered five (5) dead, according to reports from the field.
The “dusk to dawn” gun battle in the said village between SAF-PNP Troops and MILF rebels allegedly joined by another rebel group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that also have a camp in the area.
This however has to be validated first before making a formal statement pending an official report from the International Monitoring Team (IMT), the MILF said.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator said the clash was triggered by lack of coordination on the SAF operation.
“There was no coordination,(nasagasaan din nila ang tropa namin) and they also enggaged our troops nearby aside from the BIFF, that how started the bloody war today”, Iqbal said over the phone.
“Marwan”, whose presence had been confirmed in the Tukanalipao is among the list of most wanted terrorists by the United States and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has offered a $5-million reward for any information that will lead to his capture.
Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan confirmed that loud explosions and gunfire were heard from the scene of the gunfight and advised his barangay chairmen to see to it that local folks are safe.
“Two of my constituents were wounded and we are still working to evacuate those who are believed to be trapped civilians”, Ampatuan said.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said the firefight started when police attempted to raid the suspected hideout of Basit Usman that was actually the house of a certain Ustadz Manan, a sub-commander of MILF 105th base command under Zacaria Goma.
The Army 1st Mechanized Brigade under Col. Gener Del Rosario deployed tanks along the highway but could not engage for fear of hitting civilians or police.
“We have no communication with the SAF in the area inside. At first, there was no coordination with us”, Del Rosario said.
The Army 6th Infantry Division and the Maguindanao provincial police also said there was no coordination with them on the SAF operation.
Bodies of slain police officers were retrieved by responding government soldiers after the joint International Monitoring Team (IMT) and joint MILF- Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities came to calm the situation down.