NPA marks 47th year, but military claims victory
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines—The communist New People’s Army (NPA) claimed it was expanding its troop capabilities and base areas as it celebrated on Tuesday its 47th founding anniversary, making it one of the longest running Maoist insurgencies in the world.
In a statement, a spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Communist Party of the Philippines’ political arm, said the rebel movement has persisted for almost half a century and continues to expand its reach despite the concentration of military troops in rebel hot spots.
Jorge Madlos, speaking for NDF-Mindanao, claimed the NPA was now operating in 2,500 communities covering 200 towns in 20 provinces in Southern Philippines, which also hosts Islamic secessionist rebels.
“The population influenced by the (communist) revolution increased to several millions, wherein 200,000 are directly organized, while tens of thousands are covered by the peoples revolutionary governments in numerous communities and barangays and some at the municipal level,” Madlos said.
The communist leader added that there was also a growth in the recruitment of “people’s militias,” intelligence work and logistical support.
Madlos also claimed the rebel movement had enhanced capabilities to launch attacks against government forces. He claimed “at least 500 tactical offensives (TOs) were launched in Mindanao in 2015, which doubled the 250 attacks reported in 2010.”
“Over the last two months of 2016 alone, the NPA in Mindanao launched more than a hundred TOs, most of which were directed against detachments and regular troops of the AFP,” Madlos said.
The Communist Party in North Central Mindanao Region (CP-NCMR) said the country’s Armed Forces have “failed in their counterrevolutionary campaigns and operations to crush our guerrilla army.”
“We have correctly grasped the basic guerrilla tactics of concentration, dispersal and shifting. For several years now, our Red army learned warfare through warfare, earned the overwhelming support of the people and thus, grew from being small and weak to becoming large and strong,” said a separate statement signed by Norsen Manggubat, spokesperson of the CP-NCMR.
Reacting to the rebel anniversary, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the NPA “had nothing to celebrate as it has been losing in its fight for the establishment of a Maoist government in the country.”
“[March 29] is the supposed anniversary of the NPA, but we are celebrating the triumph of our soldiers,” Madrigal said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer.
Last month, the military declared several provinces in Caraga as “conflict manageable and ready for further development” following a series of combat operations there, including a clash in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte, that led to the seizure of what it said was a major NPA camp.
“Many have now helped us by providing timely and relevant information about the NPA’s location and activities… and we are now reaping the fruits of our collaboration, Madrigal said.
He said the NPA has been losing men in combat.
“We cannot allow lawless groups to sow fear among our people, Madrigal said.
In Southern Mindanao, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, cited the surrender of NPA rebels as evidence of successes against the insurgency.
Valencia said the surrenders were brought about not only by combat operations, but also by civilian-military operations.
He believed the rebels “were also realizing that it was futile to continue with their struggle.”
Valencia said the government was assisting returnees. Jigger Jerusalem and Karlos Manlupig, with a report from Eldie Aguirre, Inquirer Mindanao