AFP releases conflicting figures on NPA strength
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The military appeared to have released conflicting data about the strength of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the remaining communist insurgency in Asia.

 The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed over the weekend that the numbers of the NPA are dwindling but the figures it presented are not consistent with the ones it released last year.

 AFP chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri reported last Friday that the number of NPA members stood at 3,926 as of the end of 2015 from 4,443 in 2014. He said a total of 31 insurgents were captured or killed last year. The military also claimed to have dismantled 13 guerrilla fronts and cleared 292 barangays of communist rebels.

 The figures released last Friday, however, were different from those cited in an AFP press release dated July 3, 2015, which said there were 3,200 NPA members as of the end of 2014.

“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” is a military term that refers to rebels who were killed, arrested or captured by security forces.

On one hand, if the AFP press release issued last year was accurate, then the NPA actually gained strength as its membership rose to 3,926 last year from only 3,200 in 2014. However, if Iriberri accurately reported that the NPA’s strength was at 4,443 in 2014, then the 2015 press release was wrong in saying that the number of rebels two years ago was just 3,200.

The STAR tried to seek clarification on the conflicting figures from AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla yesterday. Padilla said he would refer the query to military officials handling the statistics.

Security officials have claimed that all reports and figures they release to the public are carefully validated and based on intelligence reports.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said it remains open to holding peace negotiations with communist rebels.

Reacting to the AFP’s claim that the communist insurgency is weakening, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government remains committed to efforts to achieve lasting peace.

“Military operations are being done to prevent the NPA from committing violent acts in communities,” Coloma told radio station dzRB.

“The government is also pushing for programs that seek to address poverty and lack of opportunities, the root of insurgency in the country,” he added.

ACIRC AFP ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ATILDE COLOMA HERNANDO IRIBERRI NBSP NEW PEOPLE NPA PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OPERATIONS OFFICE SECRETARY HERMINIO RESTITUTO PADILLA
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