No. of :

No. of Shares:

Currently viewed by: Marcus Rosit

State of the Nation: An army officer’s perspective

In the backdrop of a nation grappling with unprecedented challenges and motivated to achieve progress, the perspective of those who serve on the frontlines is often overlooked.

Amidst the endless debates and social uproar, the voice of an army officer offers a unique vantage point, shedding light on the state of the nation from a different angle.

This story delves into the insights and experiences of one such officer, whose commitment to duty and love for country have shaped his view of the world.

Cpt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, commanding officer of the army's 11th Special Forces Company based in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

Meet Captain Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan

Cpt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan is the commanding officer of the army’s 11th Special Forces Company under the 5th Special Forces Battalion, covering the City of Koronadal and the towns of Banga and Tantangan in the province of South Cotabato.

With a decade of military service, the 33-year-old army officer from Pampanga has experienced the nation’s condition on different levels. From being assigned to the marshlands and mountains of the Caraga region for seven years to the lakes and valleys of South Cotabato for over three years now, Cpt. Punsalan has seen firsthand the many challenges that the country faces, the resilience of Filipinos, and the people’s determination to overcome these obstacles.

As we sit down for an interview, he shares his thoughts on the state of the nation, the challenges faced, and the path ahead.

Cpt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, together with his men and the local media, watches intently the 2nd State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at their forward base in Koronadal City.

On PBBM’s State of the Nation Address

Cpt. Punsalan begins by reflecting on the current state of the country as he watched President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

He describes the SONA as comprehensive, saying the president practically reported on what his administration has accomplished so far since he was installed in office.  

“The President has covered everything we need. Maganda ang plano and mayroon nang paunti-unting nagagawa (the plan is good and there sure have been [programs and projects] that were in place and accomplished). We just have to be patient and hope for the best and wish our administration well,” he said. 

Punsalan insists that people should be considerate and think that “we all share one nation and what we should always think is that hindi yung ano ang magagawa ng bansa para sa’tin kundi kung ano ang magagawa natin para sa ating kapwa Pilipino (Let’s not think about what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our fellow Filipinos).”

“Lagi nating isipin na hindi lamang ang ating mga lider ang may dapat gawin, kundi tayo rin (Let us always think that it is not only our leaders who should do the work, but all of us),” he adds, as he also compared the nation to South Cotabato’s iconic fabric, the T’nalak.

The T’nalak is a fabric handwoven by the Tboli women of South Cotabato using abaca fibers. Its design is revealed to the weaver through dreams. Thus earning South Cotabato the name "Land of the Dreamweavers."

"The nation is like the T’nalak. We are in the process of weaving the fiber towards unity, peace, and being a resilient nation. We just have to believe and hope for the best so that we can come up with a beautiful outcome," he says.

Though the nation is facing a myriad of challenges, Punsalan believes that the Philippines is on the right track.

He encourages Filipinos to "be patient and wish our government well. The key lies in fostering constructive dialogue and finding common ground for the betterment of all citizens."

Punsalan also believes in the power of dialogue as a potent tool for achieving unity. "One of the main ingredients of unity is effective communication. We need a common ground; that’s where we should start. We may have our own perspectives and varying interests, but what should always stand out is our love for our country."

Troops of the army's 11th Special Forces Battalion conducts patrol operations in the hinterlands of South Cotabato. (PHOTO: 11th Special Forces Battalion, Philippine Army)

The armed forces as a source of inspiration and stability

When asked about the role of the armed forces in shaping the nation, Cpt. Punsalan’s eyes lit up with pride.

“Our primary duty is to defend the country and its people," he states firmly. "But beyond that, we are committed to upholding the values of integrity, discipline, and sacrifice. We strive to be a source of inspiration and stability."

He highlights the military's involvement in development and community engagement initiatives, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA). "The army is not just confined to barracks; we are at the forefront of nation-building," he says.

Punsalan also notes the army’s continuous push to end insurgency and sustain the gains of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

"We must have an inclusive perspective. That is why the NTF-ELCAC approach was to address the root cause and go directly to villages where people didn’t feel the government. We continue to bring basic government services, especially to far-flung communities, to help residents veer away from recruitment of communist-terrorist groups."

He also challenged all stakeholders to continuously deliver their services down to the grassroots to ensure everyone would be served.

"The army is encouraging LGUs and NGAs, as well as non-government organizations and all other sectors of society, to help in the campaign against terrorism by providing our brothers and sisters in need with much-needed interventions," he says.

Punsalan points out the need to "just be present. When I say present, some, if not most, of our offices kasi only dwell in reachable areas. My challenge is to go beyond what is needed and serve those who are truly in need."

Since 2022, the official said some 80 members of the communist-terrorist group (GTG) operating in the hinterlands of South Cotabato, Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat provinces have already yielded to government troops.

These former rebels were provided with immediate cash assistance and remuneration for surrendered firearms and ammunition as part of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, or ECLIP.

Though the situation in the province is “generally peaceful,” Punsalan maintains that the security sector is not letting their guards down and will not be complacent.

“We all know that peace, order, and development are inseparable. We need to maintain the peace condition that we have now. Through this, we can have continuous progress, and no one can hamper the developments we are pushing,” he says. 

A good mindset in the line of duty

Being in the military is no easy feat.

Cpt. Punsalan acknowledges the difficulties and sacrifices that any soldier, regardless of rank, must make along the way—these are extended separations from loved ones and exposure to risks and danger, which, more often than not, would have a detrimental impact on any soldier's emotional and mental well-being.

"But it’s a choice we make willingly," he quips. "It is our pledge and sworn duty to serve even if we are away from our families and sacrifice to help those in need. It’s the dedication and determination to think bigger than ourselves."

Punsalan explains that this is how soldiers overcome difficulties and loneliness when in the line of duty for the country by having a positive mindset all the time. 

Children from Brgy. Salacafe, Municipality of Tboli in South Cotabato receive school supplies from the 11th Forces Company, in partnership with various non-governmental organizations, during an outreach program conducted in April 2023. (PHOTO: 11th Special Forces Battalion, Philippine Army)

Hope for the Future

Despite the unavoidable roadblocks, Cpt. Punsalan remains optimistic about the nation’s future.

"The key is to learn from our history, cherish our diversity, and work towards a shared vision of progress and harmony,” he says.

The army official underlines the vital role parents and guardians play in the holistic development of the future generation.

“Everything we learn starts at home. If we can mold our children to be proactive citizens, I believe that the Philippines will be a prosperous and peaceful nation in the years to come,” he says.

He also believes in education and youth empowerment, considering them the building blocks for a brighter future.

Cpt. Punsalan recalled the 11th Special Forces Company's 1st Inter-cultural Youth Leadership Summit that took place in Tboli town late last year.

"We engaged the younger generation on pressing issues and encouraged their participation in fruitful talks about nationalism, patriotism, and culture transformation," he says.

The leadership summit aimed, at the time, to transform the youth into "peacebuilders" and "catalysts for development" while enhancing their awareness to protect them from deceptions and recruitment by the New People’s Army, or NPA, and other lawless elements.

He expresses concerns that the youth, especially those from "conflict-affected areas" and in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, or GIDAs, are the most susceptible to the recruitment of the NPA’s communist-terrorist group.

"Investing in education and nurturing the potential of our youth is an investment in the nation's future," he further notes, saying "they are the ones who will carry the torch forward.”

A perspective towards a better tomorrow

Cpt. Punsalan offers a unique perspective on the state of the nation. Through his perspective, we gain an understanding of the nation's complexities and the role the armed forces play in shaping its destiny.

The challenges may be formidable, but the strength, determination, and spirit of the nation remain the very forces that shall hoist the country forward.

Beyond security, Punsalan relishes the unity of the nation. "Unity is the backbone of a strong country. We must work together to bridge the divides and focus on our shared values and goals." 

His unwavering commitment to service reminds us that while the state of the nation might be reflective of its challenges, it is also a testament to the strength and spirit of its people—the true architects of a better tomorrow. (ORVR – PIA Region 12)

About the Author

Catherine Apelacio

Information Officer III

Region 12

Feedback / Comment

Get in touch