403rd’s Gapuz promoted general

MALAYBALAY CITY –  President Benigno Aquino III promoted Col. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the 403rd Brigade based here with the rank of brigadier general on July 16, along with 16 generals and senior officers, Capt. Eduardo Meclat Jr said.

BGen Gapuz assumed as chief of the brigade in August 2010, Meclat added. He was previously the Inspector General (IG) of 3rd Infantry Division in Camp Jamindan in Capiz.

Meclat said Gapuz will remain in the brigade, which covers the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin, and parts of Agusan del Norte and Lanao del Sur. Gapuz and the other promoted officers will still have to face the Commission on Appointments, Meclat said.

The 4th Infantry Division gave arrival honors in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro today, Meclat said. The 403rd Brigade, he added, will also have arrival honors for Gapuz in Camp Osito Bahian Friday morning.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981, Gapuz replaced Col. Nicanor E. Dolojanin the brigade, who was appointed in 2010 as deputy commander of the elite Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
Gapuz’ 403rd brigade saw surrenders of rebels as he led the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) dubbed “Bayanihan” in the area.

In February 2012, Gapuz accused about 2,500 Lumads under 13 tribal leaders to have allegedly connived with the New People’s Army (NPA) in southern Bukidnon during a session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
He said the indigenous peoples served as mass support for the rebels making it more difficult for the military to curb insurgency. But board member Roelito Gawilan, a Matigsalug chieftain who represents the association of barangay councils in the board, refuted Gapuz’s pronouncement.
“The Lumads serve as no mass base for the rebels. They have no alliance with the NPA,” he said. The tribal leader stressed that the Lumads were forced to deal with the rebels only because the NPAs are the only ones who reach out to them in the remote areas.
Gawilan added that the government, the military and the police are simply not found in the hinterlands.
Gapuz cited a claim of a tribal chieftain in San Fernando town he named as Datu Okit, who facilitated the surrender of former rebel Benjamin Salusad last year.
Salusad, along with 79 other alleged NPA members, surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Maramag town on Nov. 15. They turned in 25 high-powered firearms.

In June, Gapuz vowed to seek free and prior informed consent from the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe the next time they will enter their ancestral domain in Mt. Kitanglad. He made the promise in a ritual of reconciliation held in the Mt. Kitanglad Cultural Heritage Center here following the protest from the tribe over the bombing conducted by the military in late April in parts of their territory.(Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)