CEBU - A total of 147 rebels, reportedly the highest so far, have been neutralized from the first to third quarter of this year in the Visayas.
This was announced by military’s Central Command chief Major General Pedro Ike Inserto during yesterday’s AGIO-7 forum at the CentCom office.
Inserto said that the figure included “six top-ranking communist-terrorists (CTs).” Also, 134 firearms have been recovered; 176 affected barangays have been cleared and six guerilla fronts have been dismantled.
Negros, Panay and Samar, three groups of CentCom’s area of responsibility, reportedly have the significant presence of CTs and consequently the focus of its relentless combat and civil military operations.
Cebu, Bohol and Leyte, on the other hand, have an inconsequential CT level and need to protect Internal Security Operations gains.
Guimaras, Siquijor and Biliran have no CT influence, no ISO-related incidents, and are currently under PNP-controlled areas.
Further, Inserto is positive to meet the deadline set by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to end the insurgency problem in the country by 2010.
“I believe the target goal set by the President is attainable. To attain this, the AFP follows the ISO Plan - Bantay Laya 2 and CentCom has its Campaign Plan - Kalinaw Visayas 2. We have cleared Cebu, Bohol and Leyte and declared this as Hold areas for 2008,” Inserto said.
Inserto further said that they are now implementing phase two of the campaign plan, the concept of which is to clear Negros Island and the southern portion of Samar. The rest of Samar and Panay will then follow.
Major Oscar Lasangue, chief of the AFP Civil Relations Service in Western Visayas, is positive that with the higher figure recorded, many rebels will be returning to the fold of the law next year.
“By next year, siguradong marami pa’ng returnees. Attractive kasi ang package program ng government,” Lasangue said.
The government gives P50,000 livelihood assistance to rebel returnees, another P50,000 from the AFP in exchange of high-powered firearms, and P30,000 as cash assistance.
Meanwhile, the anniversary celebration of the CentCom was launched last Saturday in barangay Mambaling through a cleanup drive and will end on Monday through a parade and awarding for fun games. – Niña Chrismae G. Sumacot/MEEV (THE FREEMAN)