Military says number of communist rebels declined
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2014 - 11:57am

MANILA, Philippines - Amid talks of a possible resumption of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the military has released a report claiming that the strength of the communist rebels was reduced last year.

Data released by the Armed Forces Public Affairs Office showed that the membership of the New People’s Army (NPA) decreased to about 3,200 in 2014 from about 4,000 in the last few years.

It was the first time the military claimed that the rebels’ strength has shrank to 3,000 levels. The number of communist insurgents has been stuck to about 4,000 in recent years despite military officials’ repeated claims that the rebellion is on a decline.

“We have dealt a big blow against the NPA as their strength decreased to about 3,200 NPA remnants this year,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said in a statement.   

“This is due to the intensified focused military operations,” he added.

The military also attributed the supposed decrease to the “crisis” within the communist movement that stemmed from the capture of rebel leaders like Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Eugenia Topacio, Agathon Topacio and Arnold Jaramillo. 

Cabunoc said 90 NPA members were killed in clashes while 106 others were arrested and are now facing criminal cases. He said 521 insurgents surrendered to government forces.

The military reiterated its support for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDF, which represents the communist rebels in the peace negotiations.

Peace talks with the NDF were stalled last year after government negotiators rejected a demand to free communist leaders facing criminal cases.

NDF claimed that the detained communists, including suspected NPA commanders accused of staging deadly attacks, are peace consultants and should be immune from arrest.

Earlier, Communist Party of the Philippines founder and NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the talks may resume after the visit of Pope Francis this month.

Sison, said the government should release all NDF consultants including the Tiamzon couple and 500 political prisoners. He claimed that freeing the Tiamzon couple is a government obligation under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

Benito, his partner Wilma, and five other rebels were nabbed by security forces in Aloguinsan, Cebu last March 22. The Tiamzons are facing 15 counts of murder and was apprehended on a warrant issued by a regional trial court in Leyte.

Malacañang, however, stressed that there should be no pre-conditions for the resumption of the negotiations.

AGATHON TOPACIO AND ARNOLD JARAMILLO ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE BENITO AND WILMA TIAMZON COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES EUGENIA TOPACIO HAROLD CABUNOC JOINT AGREEMENT JOSE MARIA SISON NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT
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