New Centcom commander urges Reds to live for peace

The new Central Command (Centcom) commander urged the leftist New People’s Army (NPA) to lay down their arms and to “live for peace”.

The new commander of the Centcom promised to address the problematic insurgency problem in Central Visayas.

Maj. Gen Paul Atal was installed on Friday as the new Central Command head vice Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, who will be retiring on Monday.

Atal spoke before military and civilian officials during the turnover ceremony on Friday in Cebu. The Centcom also counts Bohol’s security forces underneath its command. The turnover ceremony was attended by Gov. Edgar Chatto in Cebu.

Chatto was in Cebu on Friday to attend the Provincial Development Council meeting, and the opportunity gave him the chance to attend the turnover ceremony.

He urged the rebels and the terrorists to “come back to the folds of the law and live for peace.”

The new Centcom chief, Atal, is a member of the “Maharlika” class of 1984.

“War only leaves death and destruction. The military fights not because we want to but we need to,” he said.

Atal reminded the public together with the security forces to be on alert against the attacks from leftist rebels.

The government is currently expecting intensified attacks from the left now the peace talks with the leftist rebel group has bogged down. Recently, President Duterte proclaimed the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorist groups.

The military top brass earlier has alarmed the troops to be ready for any retaliatory attacks from the estimated 3,600-strong leftist armed terrorists.

Atai said suppressing the insurgency problem in Central Visayas will be his top priority as he assumed his position.

He said the armed forces will be moving beyond protecting structures, confiscating weapons or addressing threats but also fighting the ills the society these days.

Atai will also be connecting closely with local government units, both local and regional, and update them with the armed forces’ campaigns and to encourage capacity building for soldiers, among others.

With technology, Atai wants soldiers to be more versatile and adapt to the changes over time.

“We are likewise now faced with the changing security environment with emerging major threats on cyber security concerns,” he said. Atai admitted what Lactao did in the Centcom is a tough act to follow. He knows how big the boots he needs to fill in.

“(Lactao’s) example as a snappy, excellent and formidable commander will be a consistent reminder of high standards of which I and the officers of the Central Command, including all of his units must continue to meet,” he said.

Lactao for his part received a command plaque, for honorable service, for his 37 years of dedicated service for flag and country.

ATAI’S BACKGROUND

Prior to Atai’s installation as the new Centcom commander, he was the commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Battalion.

Atai, who holds a doctorate degree, also served as the assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division located in Mindanao.

During his stint in Mindanao, he gave proper support to his commander in the implementation campaigns against the CPP-NPA: Bayanihan Team Activities; peace and development programs and disaster risk reduction programs.

He also served as the human rights officer and later on Commander of the 503rd Brigade under the 5th Infantry Division.

Atal also commanded the 7th Infantry Battalion and 38th Infantry Battalion, under the 6th Infantry Division. He was awarded a Bronze Cross Medal in 2007 for the successful apprehension of the two suspects in the bombing of two malls in Tacurong City in 2006 when he was with the 75th Infantry Battalion.

He is among the few generals in the military who holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration, said a press release from the military.

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