From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Ex-AFP public affairs chief leads Army unit in S. Kudarat
A multi-awarded and “popular” Army officer has assumed as the new commanding officer of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) based in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province.
Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, formally took over on Monday as acting commander of the 33IB, which has operational jurisdiction over three municipalities in Sultan Kudarat and seven in Maguindanao.
He replaced Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, who has completed his two-year assignment as commanding officer of the “Makabayan” battalion.
Bunayog was reassigned to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th ID commanding officer, led the formal turnover ceremony on Monday at the 33IB headquarters in Barangay Tual in President Quirino town.
Bunayog credited the support of local government officials and community stakeholders to their successful operations in the past two years, especially against elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
He expressed confidence that the unit, under Cabunoc’s leadership will be able to accomplish its mission in securing the area, sustain the gains of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and in ushering development in local communities.
For his part, Cabunoc urged local stakeholders to extend the same support and cooperation to the 33IB.
He specifically cited the need for them to closely collaborate in addressing social issues and other problems that fueled the armed conflict these past years in parts of central Mindanao, especially in Maguindanao.
He said poverty, lack of education and other lingering social problems in the communities are their “real enemies.”
“Let’s help each other in solving the problems of our communities. These problems could not be addressed through armaments and armed operations,” Cabunoc said.
He assured that the 33IB is very much capable in securing the area and has broad experience in handling counter-insurgency operations in Mindanao.
Cabunoc noted that unit had been deployed in “hotspot” areas such as Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao del Sur.
The 33IB was adjudged as the country’s second best maneuver battalion in 2015, and topped in terms of readiness and good governance in 2016.
The AFP awarded Bunayog with the merit medal for his “exemplary” stint as commanding officer of the 33IB.
Cabunoc had served in various Army units, including the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao, and received a number of combat awards and citations before assuming as the AFP’s public affairs chief in 2014.
These include Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) award from Metrobank Foundation and Rotary Club of Makati-Metro and the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award by the Civil Service Commission.
He was reassigned in late 2015 as special projects officer of AFP’s Civil Relations Service.