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NPA strength diminishing, says military report

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2015 - 12:00am

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

Data released by the Armed Forces Public Affairs Office showed 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 the rebels’ strength has shrank to around 3,000. The number of communist insurgents has been stuck at about 4,000 in recent years despite military officials’ repeated claims that the rebellion is waning.

“We have dealt a big blow against the NPA as their strength decreased to about 3,200 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 fighters 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 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.

The NDF claimed the detained Tiamzon couple, as well suspected NPA commanders accused of staging deadly attacks, are “peace consultants” and should be immune from arrest.

Earlier, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) 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 Tiamzons and 500 political prisoners. He said 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 arrested by security forces in Aloguinsan, Cebu last March 22. The Tiamzons, facing 15 counts of murder, were apprehended on a warrant issued by a regional trial court in Leyte.

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

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles assailed the communist rebels for the blatant disregard of truce during the Christmas season.

Deles said the communist rebels have reciprocated government’s gesture of a month-long unilateral ceasefire with acts of senseless violence.

She said the communists also disregarded the people’s desire for peace and goodwill.

Deles cited the attack on Dec. 22 where the rebels burned down the heavy equipment of a construction firm used in building a bridge in Paracale, Camarines Norte.

Deles said the rebels also burned down a vehicle owned by a civilian in Agusan del Sur on the same day.

She said both attacks were committed in retaliation for the refusal to give in to their extortion demands. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Ramon Lazaro

 

AGATHON TOPACIO AND ARNOLD JARAMILLO ARMED FORCES ARMED FORCES PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE BENITO AND WILMA TIAMZON CAMARINES NORTE COMMUNIST COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES EUGENIA TOPACIO GOVERNMENT REBELS
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