TACLOBAN CITY – This holiday season, soldiers in Leyte province have been patrolling remote communities with a twist — wearing Santa Claus hats, singing Christmas carols, and giving food packs and candies.
Since mid-December, troopers of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade have been visiting remote communities in the northwestern part of Leyte province as part of their holiday version counter-insurgency drive.
The activity has already covered the villages of Dayhagan, Sumangga, Mangga, and Dunghol villages in Ormoc City; Poblacion area of Albuera, Leyte; and Hiluctogan village in Carigara, Leyte.
Over the weekend, soldiers meet the former rebels from different provinces in the region currently undergoing the government-sponsored landscaping training in Villaconzoilo village, Jaro, Leyte.
“The rain is heavy but our Santa Patrol is stronger to visit our former rebels to offer them songs and gifts. Christmas is fun when we work together and give each other,” said Capt. Kaharudin Cadil, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade, in a phone interview on Tuesday.
The priority in the distribution of candies, food, and spaghetti packs are poor families, rescued families and former recruits of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (NPA), and former rebels.
The next activity will target pedicab drivers in Albuera, Leyte before Christmas Day.
The gift-giving activity was made possible through donations from soldiers and their friends.
Brig. Gen. Zosimo Oliveros, commander of the Philippine Army 802nd Infantry Brigade, said they are optimistic that through gift-giving, children and teens will make them less vulnerable to deceptive recruitment of the NPA.
It also seeks to generate support from vulnerable communities in the fight against insurgency.
In an interview with Armed Forces of the Philippines radio station, Oliveros said the caroling and gift-giving forms part of their heightened information drive to dismantle the marauding members of the NPA in Leyte province.
“We really have to do all means to let the people feel the presence of the government in their communities. We have to counter the propaganda of the NPA that the government neglects them,” Oliveros said.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)