DIPACULAO, Aurora , Philippines – The military yesterday declared this town, a known hotbed of communist rebels, free of the New People’s Army with the recent setbacks in armed clashes with government operatives and the massive demoralization of the rebel movement.
Army Lt. Col. Elias Escarcha, commander of the 48th Infantry Battalion, said they are ready to turn over to the Philippine National Police the counter-insurgency functions of the military following the clearing of the town from rebel influence. He said that by Dec. 15, the PNP will assume operational control of the anti-insurgency movement.
Escarcha, along with newly installed 702nd brigade commander, Col. Felicito Trinidad and police and local officials signed yesterday a memorandum of agreement for the joint declaration of insurgency cleared areas and the forging of a partnership for strengthening the internal security in this town. The MOA-signing coincided with the 59th Foundation Day of this town.
The event was highlighted by a peace rally spearheaded by the military, police and local officials, religious sectors, peace advocacy groups and the citizenry.
Escarcha said the town’s founding anniversary was a double celebration of sorts because aside from the town fiesta, local folks are also celebrating their “freedom from communist oppression.”
He said the cleansing of the town from rebel influence was not the result of conventional warfare but by using moral suasion on the local residents to denounce and rise up against communist insurgency.
“The kind of war we are waging is so much different from conventional warfare. In order to win the war, we first must win the hearts and minds of the people and make them feel they are part of the campaign to get rid of the NPA. Here in Dipaculao, this is exactly what we did,” he said.
He said that the campaign which started late last year, led to the surrender of 17 NPA rebels who were former members of the Sandatahang Partido at Platoon in Northern Aurora under Ka Jacky and 12 more from the NPA in Central Aurora.
The 48th IB also recovered 19 high-powered firearms and a low-powered firearm.