NPA has become irrelevant, says military chief in N. Luzon
The chief of the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) has described the New People’s Army (NPA) as “irrelevant” even as President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his renewed interest in resuming peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Lt. Gen. Ramiro Manuel Rey issued the statement on Monday as he announced the recovery of firearms and ammunition believed to belong to an NPA unit operating in Aurora province.
Rey said civilians helped the Army’s 91st Infantry Battalion (IB) and police’s mobile force companies in Aurora and Nueva Ecija province in recovering the items buried at Barangay Punglo in Maria Aurora town on Dec. 6.
On Nov. 30, the 84th IB exhumed the body of a suspected NPA rebel in Carranglan town in Nueva Ecija.
In a joint statement, the Army and the police reported that the recovered firearms included five M16s, two AK47s and an M14 rifle — all high-caliber rifles.
These supposedly belonged to a platoon of guerrilla front forces in Sierra Madre, the mountain ranges on the eastern border of northern and Central Luzon.
“[The recovered firearms] prove that the CPP-NPA is becoming irrelevant and that people no longer believe their lies [that the group] used for a long lost cause,” Rey said in a statement from Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City.
Boy’s slay probed
He added: “It just a matter of time before these bandits will face the full force of the law.”
The statement said the NPA platoon had slowed down because of the military and police campaigns to end insurgency.
In Mindanao, the military’s 403rd Infantry Brigade supported the move of the regional human rights office to look into the death of a 16-year-old boy during a clash between soldiers and communist rebels in Gingoog City on Dec. 2.
The military said the minor, a Grade 6 pupil of Sitio Sioan Elementary School at Barangay Malinao in Gongoog, was an NPA fighter.
Capt. Ryan Layug, spokesperson for the 403rd IB, said the parents told them the boy had been missing for sometime. He also said a gun had been recovered from the boy after the encounter.
According to Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, the NPA has been recruiting minors as young as 12 years old to fight in the insurgency war.
Gacal said the average age of the NPA’s “child warriors” in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions was 17.
On Sunday, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) condemned the boy’s death.
“The commission strongly denounces the use of child soldiers in armed conflict. Nothing can justify this deplorable practice,” said lawyer Jacqueline de Guia, the CHR spokesperson.
She said even nonstate armed groups were required under the international human rights and humanitarian law to respect the prohibition in the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts and hostilities.
Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, 403rd IB commander, said they would help the CHR in the investigation.
“We shall fully cooperate with the CHR and provide assistance, if necessary,” he said.—Reports from Tonette Orejas, Armand Galang, Vincent Cabreza and Jigger Jerusalem
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