BASEY, Samar – Soldiers belonging to the 87th Infantry Battalion are giving their focus in winning the trust and confidence of the people living in remote villages in Samar. This way, the possibility of these villagers joining the rebel group, the New People’s Army, or just be sympathetic to them will be avoided. In particular, the soldiers of the 87th IB, which is under the command of Lt. Col. Antonio Dulnuan, Jr., is conducting series of “peace events” in Barangay Mabini, one of the remotest villages of Basey. Mabini, once considered to be a lair of the NPA, recently witnessed a gun battle between the rebel group and government troops which saw a soldier killed.
Arm skirmishes in the village have resulted to dislocation of its residents. Many of them have fled for fear of their security. NPA members, in particular, “flourish” in remote barangay like Mabini if there is no presence of government soldiers, said 2Lt. Jezzel Anumbay, assistant civil military operations Officer of the 87th IB.
The soldiers of the 87th IB, together with the municipal government of Basey and the provincial government of Samar, had pursued strategies of development and security to address the conflict, which combined the restoration of civilian justice, recognition of the unique identity of the farmers in the community, and a combined security and developmental solution. The initiative features a “responsive dialogue” giving the local community a greater voice in the peace process. The dialogue allows local participants to identify the four issues that most seriously weighed on their daily lives: personal and community security; access to justice; and education quality.  One of the priority follow-up actions proposed by local community members, women in particular was the need for mechanisms to enable peaceful co-existence between locals and security officials to ensure personal security. Community members called for the pilot testing of “safety areas” in which communities would assume responsibility for their own security as an alternative to formal military protection. (JAZMIN BONIFACIO)