AFP: We liberated 23 provinces from NPABy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In a somewhat startling declaration Thursday, the Armed Forces claimed to have “liberated” 23 provinces from the four-decades-old communist insurgency, which it said lost more than 300 guerrillas in 2011.
The military said its Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP), referred to as the “Bayanihan,” had freed the provinces from the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“The AFP through the IPSP Bayanihan liberated 23 provinces from the CPP-NPA-NDF influence, with their internal security operations turned over to their respective local government units,” the military said.
The provinces are Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Biliran, Cebu, Bohol, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Siquijor and Leyte and Southern Leyte.
AFP public affairs chief Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the presence of NPA guerrillas in these provinces had become so insignificant that the military had turned over the job of maintaining security in these areas to the local government units.
“These are indicators that there is now unhampered progress in these provinces without major incidents of violence and extortion by the NPA rebels,” he said in a phone interview.
“We can’t say there’s zero presence but we can say that it is no longer significant,” Burgos said.
He said the AFP, through the IPSP, had made great strides in its campaign against the communists as well as significant headway in the alleviation of “poverty-induced insurgency.”
“The AFP’s intensified military presence, civil military operations and social reintegration resulted [in] the CPP-NPA-NDF losing 341 of its members, 235 of [whom] have surrendered and opted for a peaceful life with their families,” the AFP said in a press release.
“The rest who still resorted to armed engagement against government troops have either been apprehended or killed in encounters,” it added.
According to Burgos, there are still some 25 provinces with varying degrees of NPA influence, including Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Davao and Agusan del Sur, among others.
NPA turns ‘criminal’
Only “less than 5,000” NPA rebels remain in the countryside waging their decadeslong revolution, he said.
The AFP said the NPA, which has been trying to supplant democracy with the communist ideology, has largely transformed itself into a criminal group involved in extortion as its primary source of income.
It said the NPA has also been associated with various criminal activities, from murder and kidnapping to robbery, bombing and arson. The NPA allegedly exploded 21 improvised explosive devices, killing 28 persons, five of them AFP personnel, it added.
The military also denounced what it described as the communists’ lack of sincerity in pursuing peace talks with the government. Negotiations stalled recently after the NDF demanded the release of several jailed members as a condition to restart the talks.
‘Pattern of insincerity’
“Over the years, the (CPP-NPA-NDF) have shown a pattern of insincerity in the ongoing peace talks, where they have not shown any intention but to intensify propaganda and gain concessions from the government, as well as to push for the release of ‘protected’ people under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig),” it said.
In the statement, AFP Chief Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa said the military would not cease in its efforts to stamp out the root causes of the insurgency, using a propeople and propoor approach.
“Through people-centered and multisector engagements, we will not stop until the root causes of insurgency are alleviated,” he said.
“Our pro-people programs will continue in support of the government’s peace negotiation efforts. Our soldiers will continue to safeguard our people from threats posed by an irrelevant armed struggle,” Dellosa said.
On-and-off peace talks
The armed struggle of the CPP dates back to its establishment on Dec. 26, 1968, when it broke away from the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas during a restive period in the country’s history that would culminate in the declaration of martial law in 1972.
Since its founding, the NPA has become a thorn on the side of government, launching attacks in the countryside and collecting revolutionary taxes from politicians and business establishments.
The government and the rebels have been holding peace talks on and off since the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, the mother of President Benigno Aquino III. The talks have been suspended several times by either party.
In 2004, negotiations were scuttled after the NDF accused the Arroyo administration of “sabotaging” the talks by pressing for the rebels’ surrender upon the signing of a final peace agreement.
Last year, the Aquino administration declared its intention to revive the negotiations but the communists’ insistence that the government release its “consultants” have caused the talks to stall.