The Philippine Army’s 53rd Infantry “Matapat” Battalion (53IB) honored and gave tribute to its 16th Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Jo-ar A Herrera, for his accomplishments as he bid his farewell to the troops during a thanksgiving dinner held yesterday, August 6, 2022.
In his message, Lt. Col. Herrera expressed his gratitude to the troops.
“I am very thankful and at the same time, honored and priviledged to have led this battalion,” said Lt. Col. Herrera.
The officers and selected troops of the 53IB also gave their respective messages for the outgoing commanding officer.
During Lt. Col. Herrera’s stint as 53IB’s Commanding Officer, the battalion initated various initiatives to help uplift the morale and welfare of its troops, CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAAs), and Friends Rescued (FRs).
PROJECT GOOD LIFE FOR FRIENDS RESCUED (FRS)
For the FRs, the 53IB launched Project Good Life, an inclusive wellbeing psychoeducation program conducted in partnership with various organizations and national government agencies that aims to translate the result of initial strength-based research inquiry among FRs of the 53IB to community extension service. The first batch of Project Good Life produced 41 well-rounded FRs, after completing the program for 10-months. The second batch, which was launched on July 27, 2022, has 50-FR students. On July 29, 2022, 37 FRs also graduated from the Alternative Learning System (ALS), through 53IB’s partnership and convergence with the Department of Education (DepEd).
BETTER LIFE: ADOPT A CAFGU PROJECT
On CAAs, the Battalion initiated “Better Life: Adopt-a-CAFGU Project,” an initiative where the Matapat Troopers agree to provide necessary assistance, knowledge, and a structured pathway to all CAAs in the AO for them to achieve personal and professional growth. Programs for Adopt a CAFGU Project include, but are not limited to: Inclusion in the Peace and Order and Public Safety (POPS) Plan (Province/Municipality) through regular provisions of rice allowance, uniforms, skills training, enrollment to PhilHealth, SSS, and Livelihood Programs; Support for health and wellbeing through Free medical and dental check-ups and Mental health and wellbeing; and Free education through the ALS.
Since the start of the project, the unit was able to uplift the morale and welfare of the 1,890 CAAs in
the AO. To support their health and wellbeing, the unit conducted twenty (20) Medical Capabilities for
all CAAs, including their dependents totaling 690 beneficiaries. To protect them from COVID 19, the unit initiated the vaccination of 1,463 CAAs. Continuous support of rice allowance to eight hundred fifteen 815 CAAs was also provided by the unit to help them with their basic needs.
Furthermore, they were also provided with uniforms from the troops of 53IB and the LGUs of ZDS. A total
of 505 uniforms were distributed, 271 from the Matapat Troopers and 234 from the LGUs. To recognize their years of invaluable service and dedication to duty, 258 CAAs were given awards, certificates of recognition, and letters of commendation from the unit.
PROJECT BEST LIFE
For its troops, the 53IB initiated Project Best Life, its mental health program. Anchrored on Philippine Army’s Mental Health Program, Project Best Life is a research-based program initiated to deal the gap of health and knowledge relative to the troops’ wellbeing. The unit was also able to conduct a total of 4 Noncomissioned Officer (NCO) forum as part of Project Best Life to capacitate and enhance the leadership of NCOs.
CONSTRUCTION AND RENOVATION OF FACILITIES
The battalion, through the able leadership of Lt. Col. Herrera, also initiated the Construction of covered courts, concreting of LTC VILLANUEVA road, concreting of 1LT GUMAMPANG circumferential road inside the camp, construction of S2 Barracks, renovation of EP Mess Facilities, renovation of Warehouse Storage, renovations of CR (PWD), renovation of CO’s Quarters, renovation of Matapat Chapel, renovation of Matapat Hall, renovation of RCP Building, construction of Community Bleacher, Eagle’s
Lounge and Library, construction of Admin Building/ Receiving Area, construction of a memorial park for the fallen members of 53IB, construction of NCO barracks, renovation of the CPL SANORIA administrative building, officers’ quarters, and Matapat firing range.
The unit also conducted an astounding 4,655 combat operations of various magnitudes in the unit’s area of operations, which resulted to twenty-five (25) armed encounter against communist-terrorist groups; twelve (12) enemies killed; and the recovery and surrender of fifty-two (52) high-powered firearms and eighteen (18) low-powered firearms; surrender of forty-seven (47) and capture of seventeen (17) communist terrorist group (CTG) members; capture of six (6) improvised explosive devices (IEDs); recovery of voluminous subversive documents and other war materiel; and the discovery/seizure of thirty-two (32) encampments/harbor sites.
To address the Criminal Groups (CGs), the unit teamed up with the PNP through the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (JPSCC) in the conduct of Joint Law Enforcement Operations (LEO), which resulted in four (4) armed engagements, four (4) CGs killed (BC), seven (7) captured/arrested, recovery of one (1) highpowered firearms and three (3) low-powered firearms with magazines and ammunition including one (1) improvised grenade launcher.
Through the effort and remarkable accomplishment of the unit, the HQ “KALAW, Main Regional Guerilla
Unit (MRGU), Regional Urban Committee (RUC), and GF BBC of the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC) were all dismantled. The battalion received three (3) AFP Battle Streamers from Western Mindanao Command on 26 February 2021. These efforts have brought Zamboanga del Sur to become Insurgency Free and ready for development province.
The unit also received a Congressional Commendation from the 2nd District Representative of Zamboanga del Sur, for valuable achievements in countering insurgency and violent extremism, and for successfully dismantling Guerilla Fronts of Communist Terrorist Groups in Western Mindanao.