Australia Alumnus and former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Madrigal, Jr. brings fresh perspective on securing lasting peace
Gen Benjamin Madrigal Jr. has served the military since the 1980s. As part of his career advancement in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he pursued further studies in Australia, where he earned his Master of Management Studies from the University of New South Wales through a scholarship from the Australia-Philippines Defence Cooperation Program. He also took up diploma courses from the School of Artillery in Manly and Canberra focused on Defence resource management.
“I believe that advancing my education in Australia helped build my knowledge and capability to make a difference in the communities I serve in the country,” General Madrigal said.
“Studying in Australia provided me a fresh perspective on power and its use in peace work. Traditional military authority is defined by command and control, and the state usually reacts to insurgency via armed suppression. However, the human resource management courses I took in Australia taught me the value of cooperation and consultation”, he added.
As then commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), General Madrigal saw for himself that in conflict areas, people are less anxious about security. They are more concerned with issues that affect their day-to-day life like livelihood, basic services, and good governance.
“My experiences in Mindanao made me realise that enduring peace is deeply rooted in socio-economic justice. Thus, a military response, while still a viable solution, requires parallel and earnest efforts on the civilian front. Insurgency is a multi-dimensional problem that requires a multi-sectoral approach.”
To achieve this, General Madrigal started a framework for conflict resolution that involves different sectors in bringing lasting peace and development to troubled communities, called the Tribal Re-empowerment and Initiative Building Operations (TRIBO).
“My Australian education equipped me to work effectively with various organisations outside the military. It taught me that a comprehensive and coordinated strategy improves the people’s way of life in the long-term, giving them reason to stay in the lawful fold of Filipino society,” said General Madrigal.
The General explained that in the TRIBO framework, insurgency is not the military’s exclusive domain. Relevant agencies also participate with their respective expertise to address specific community needs, such as medicine, education, and housing. This approach led to a better understanding between the tribe and government forces and facilitated the implementation of whole-of-government programs and projects.
The framework, which also gives emphasis on cultural sensitivity, became a guide for military personnel and units on engaging indigenous communities. With this approach, Datu Guibang Apuga, an elderly tribal leader and founder of an insurgent movement in Davao del Norte, surrendered with his tribesmen-followers after more than 25 years in the underground movement.
In 2018, General Madrigal became the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This coincided with the issuance of Executive Order No. 70, which institutionalises the “whole-of-nation” approach in achieving peace. The Philippine President declared that the state will shift to a new civilian-led approach that will tap other government agencies and other private sectors in bringing basic services and other development interventions to address the root cause of the communist movement.
“The concept behind the campaign is getting the whole government bureaucracy at all levels to work together and address the issues identified by our people in conflict-affected areas. Unlike in past campaigns, these saw the involvement of government and civil society leaders, with the local chief executives leading the effort,” said the former Chief of Staff.
During his term as AFP Chief of Staff, the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the mid-term national and local elections were successfully and peacefully held, which symbolised stability and order in the Philippine government electoral processes. General Madrigal also focused on disaster response, peacebuilding, and other nation-building operations, and worked on further strengthening relationship with the country’s allies – furthering bilateral and multi-lateral relations with partner nations.
Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. was awarded the 2018 Alumni of the Year for his significant contribution to peace and security in Mindanao. He completed his term as Chief of Staff of the AFP on September 2019. He is currently the Administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority.