There is a new man at the helm of the Philippine Army’ 56th Infantry (Tatag) Battalion.
He is Lt. Colonel Joey Escanillas who is advancing the military’s mission mantra Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) codenamed “Bayanihan.”
To win the peace is to win the hearts and minds of local folks in its territorial jurisdiction covering the provinces of Aurora and Quirino, the towns of Bongabon in Nueva Ecija and Dinapigue in Isabela and portions of Alfonso Castaneda in Nueva Vizcaya.
Winning the peace in the 56th IB’s area of responsibility is an ardous task.
For one, the areas represent varied cultures and geographical make-up covering 17 municipalities composed of 320 barangays and inhabited by almost half a million people – 450,274 to be exact.
Dinapigue is a first class municipality while Bongabon and Alfonso Castaneda are second and fourth class towns, respectively.
When Escanillas assumed his post on June 1,2014, the 56th IB was in limbo.
The battalion has just been placed under non-operational status and its men were dispatched to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division headquarters in
Fort Magsaysay, for retraining
Upon assumption, he immediately buckled down to work.
He supervised the implementation of the IPSP, an operational road map of the Armed Forces of the
on how it performs its
mandate of protecting the people and the state from internal armed threats. Philippines
The IPSP’s utmost goal is to win the peace, instead of just defeating the enemy in military combat.
To win peace, it should involve the cooperation of various sectors and stakeholders such as local government units (LGUs), the community, non-government organizations and the citizenry at- large.
Six months after assuming his post, Escanillas led his troops in returning to the barracks, to its original base in Barangay Calabuanan in Baler,
Shortly after, bayanihan teams were deployed in Aurora, Quirino and Alfonso Castańeda, Nueva Vizcaya.
Before actual deployment, Escanillas touched base with the LGUs and forged the signing of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) plus send-off ceremonies to the troops.
“These ceremonies aim to make each stakeholder entity to be cognizant of their respective roles and responsibilities in the attainment of peace and progress in their areas,” he said.
Among the areas where the MOUs have been signed were in Alfonso Castaneda in Nueva Vizcaya, Maria Aurora in Aurora and Maddela, Quirino.
Escanillas demonstrated that he is a hands-on manager overseeing the operations of his troops.
He personally involved himself in the deployment by orienting every team on IPSP, the significance of their deployment and gave emphasis on respect for and adherence to human rights, advocacy of the International Humanitarian Law and the rule of law as well as soldier discipline for which the Army is known for.
Escanillas understands the vital and indispensable role of coordination in forging peace and unity in the battalion’s AOR.
Armed with this belief, he lost no time paying courtesy calls to Governors Gerardo A. Noveras of
and Junie Cua of Quirino, Mayor Allan Xystus Gamilla of Bongabon, Mayor Annie
C. Bayawan of Alfonso Castaneda and Mayor Reynaldo D. Derije of Dinapigue. Aurora
Being the chief executives of their respective localities, he explained that these political leaders have the grasp of the situation on the ground, including the peace and order situation and the attendant threats to its preservation and upkeep.
“In a sense, they are ground commanders who have a pulse of the situation since they are the heads of their respective peace and order councils.
Besides, they carry with them overwhelming mandates and thus, are popular with the masses,” he said.
Escanillas raised the bar of performance of the battalion by actively engaging soldiers in essaying non-traditional roles in partnership with the LGUs in various operational fronts of civil-military operations such as – but not limited to - disaster relief and rescue operations, anti-illegal logging operations and environmental protection, the “Balik-loob” programs, community development activities and school activities.
He stressed that with these activities, winning the peace and progress is not an impossible dream.
Significantly, the battalion’s combat operations, backed up by a no-nonsense intelligence build-up, led to the recovery of four rounds of M-203 ammunitions, seven empty shells of M-203, 10 rounds of M-60 ammo, 23 empty shells of M-60, three rounds of M-16 ammo, 23 empty shells of M-16, improvised explosive device (IED) and one backpack containing medical supplies, medicines, subversive documents and food supplies during an encounter at Barangay Galintuja, Maria Aurora on November 12, 2014.
“Winning the peace is everybody’s concern. It’s not an issue of you and me alone but everybody,” he said.
“At the end of the day, peace is defined as not just the absence of war and conflict.
But an environment where there is rule of law, a climate of harmony, cooperation and camaraderie and the steadfast faith that we are all brothers – irregardless of our color, religion and beliefs – standing side-by-side in service to the nation,” he added.