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AFP insists NPA strength down to 3,900

The figures presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines about the strength of the New People’s Army are not consistent with the ones released in 2015. Philstar.com/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The military stands by the communist insurgency figures reported by Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri last week, virtually rejecting its own press release distributed last year.

“We stand by the figures we reported. These are based on the briefing of our officials involved in operations and intelligence,” Armed Forces public affairs Col. Noel Detoyato said.

Detoyato stressed that all data released to the media had undergone validation. He, however, declined to comment on the military press release issued last year, which claimed that the rebels' strength has dwindled to less than 3,000.

Last week, Iriberri announced that the number of New People’s Army (NPA) members dropped to 3,926 as of the end of 2015 from 4,443 in 2014.

The figure, however, is not consistent with those issued by the military last year.

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According to a military press release dated July 3, 2015, there were 3,200 NPA members as of the end of 2014. The press release also claimed that the number of armed rebels has decreased to less than 3,000 in the first three months of 2015.

“Based on the 2014 Yearend report, there were 3,200 armed members (NPA). In the first quarter of 2015, the AFP has recorded the neutralization of 340 armed members,” the press release read.

“Neutralized” pertains to rebels who were killed, arrested or captured by security forces.

If the armed forces press release issued last year is accurate, then the number of NPA members increased to 3,926 last year from 3,200 in 2014. Such figure would refute the military's often repeated claim that the NPA is on a decline.

On the other hand, if Iriberri is correct in saying that the NPA's strength was at 4,443 in 2014, then the 2015 press release was inaccurate and the military merely exaggerated its accomplishments.

It also means that the military has failed to significantly reduce the number of NPA members as the figure has been at around 4,000 since 2010. 

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