Peace Course with the
military still going
… despite war in Basilan and Sulu
By Belle Garcia
Posted 17 August 2007
9th batch of soldiers from the 103rd Infantry Brigade based in
the 1st "Tabak" Infantry Division.
THE NINTH BATCH of soldiers
now undergoing the Course on Conflict Management and Peace Building
at the Balay Mindanao Peace Center from August 13-17 may be the
last. But the question still lingers: “What happens after the
This is one of the questions
Col. Raynard Ronnie Y. Javier, commanding officer of the 103rd
Infantry Brigade, posed as a challenge to his 33 officers and men
who attended the Operation Peace Course, or OPKORS!
This batch of soldiers come
from the 5th, 51st and 32nd Infantry Battalions, with some from the
Many of them expressed
anguish and anger over the Basilan incident since most of them
served the island province for 13 years before they were reassigned
in the Lanao provinces early this year.
Sgt Manny A. Tan and SSg Harry A. Bangsa, both standing behind
their fellow soldiers and helping facilitate the operation
peace course with Balay Mindanaw.
This capacity building
program of the military is an offshoot of the roundtable discussion
with the erstwhile Southern Command (now split into the Eastern and
Western commands) on Conflict Management and Peace building held
last October 19, 2006. There, the idea of transforming the military’s
culture of war into that of conflict management, culture of peace
and peace building was reinforced and supported. Immediately, Maj.
Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, then commanding general of the First “Tabak”
Infantry Division, ordered his brigade and battalion commanders and
their men to undergo the peace course.
Specifically OPKORS! provides
venue for soldiers to understand deeper the conflicts in their
respective areas, understand their inner selves, develop and enhance
skills in managing conflict, and provide strategic interventions
with the fundamentals of peace building as their basis of action.
These sets of peace courses are being conducted by the Balay
Mindanaw Group of NGOs, in partnership with the Catholic Relief
Services, MSU-IIT Iligan Center for Peace Education and Research and
other support groups and donor organizations.
During the short evaluation
among the trainers and military officers involved in the course, it
was articulated that there were very significant changes in most of
the soldiers’ understanding of conflict at the personal and
Col. Raynard Ronnie Javier,
peace advocate and commanding officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade.
“Malaking bagay para sa
akin ang training na ito kasi tinuruan ako kung paano alisin ang
galit ko … lalo na simula sa aking sarili at pati na rin sa aming
mga kaaway. Natututo akong mag adjust sa pag-iisip at paguunawa,”
said 1st Sgt. Manuelito A. Tan of the Echo Company of the 5th
Infantry Battalion. Manny, as he is now called by fellow trainers of
Balay Mindanaw, was a participant of the peace course in February
Having difficulty adjusting
to this new approach at soldiering, he is unlearning and learning at
the same time the values and skills regarding communication,
dialogue and mediation. Later, he was then called to join the
trainers’ training of the 103rd brigade in April 2007 to help
conduct the increasing number of peace courses under this brigade.
Manny already helped facilitate and accompanied four sets of
trainings, including the last batch. He highly recommends the course
to his fellow cadres and CAFGUs.
To date, the 103IB has 88
officers, 116 non-commissioned officers and 201 Civilian Armed
Auxiliaries (CAFGU members) who have undergone the peace course that
started November last year. Even when MGen. Ferrer was reassigned
from Tabak to the 6th Infantry Division last March 16, the 103IB,
which is under Tabak, continued the trainings and advocacy on peace
building. Convinced as he is, Col. Javier expressed, “These are
reaffirmations of my long-time belief that peace is possible in the
Diana C. Alarda, 2LT Julie F. Laddaran and PFC Karen June
Remion are the only female military officers and personnel who
participated in the operation peace course this August.
As it seems, the road to
peace is not easy, with the ongoing burning events happening with
the Army in Sulu and the Marines in Basilan. But Col. Javier is
still hopeful that things will turn for the better as he expects to
see something good will happen out of the peace trainings for his
officers and men in the province of Lanao del Norte. He believes
that with his soldiers now equipped with the new knowledge, skills
and approaches on peace acquired from the trainings, they will know
how to analyze conflicts, what directions to consider, what values
to guide them and know that peace is an option to take.
In the meantime, MGen Ferrer
has started to train his new men in the 6ID on peace building. MGen
Ferrer and Col. Javier, who are both committed in this peace
endeavor, along with their like-minded generals, are now planning to
pursue an enterprise program at the CAFGU/CAA level, to reach out to
LGUs and the police and to continue peace advocacy within their
ranks. These are several complementary activities that Balay
Mindanaw will also look into, including developing strategies
towards creating a favorable policy environment with the top