Military sees end of communist rebellion in central, northern Luzon by 2022

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Military sees end of communist rebellion in central, northern Luzon by 2022
Photo shows Camp Aquino, the Northern Luzon Command's headquarters in Tarlac province.
Northern Luzon Command Facebook page

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Government security forces foresee the extinction of the communist insurgency in Northern and Central Luzon towards the end of President Rodrigo Duterte's term in 2022.

Among the indications cited by the military Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) is the surrender of 313 New People's Army rebels in the provinces north of Manila in 2020 alone.

At least 96 assorted firearms have been turned over to government during the series of mass surrenders this year and "commensurate remunerations depending on the state and caliber of firearms will be given to the surrenders as part of government grants under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP prior to the weapons’ demilitarization," Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Nolcom chief, said.

Burgos explained that "formal surrender is an overt expression of the former rebels' withdrawal of support from the Communist Party of the Philippines, something which the underground movement dreads more than losing fighters during encounters because it only shows that people are already enlightened and no longer support their so-called cause."

Two weeks ago, top military and police officials formally declared the end of Kilusang Larangang Gerilya Southern Ilocos Sur (KLG SIS) which used to operate in the boundaries of Ilocos Sur, Mountain Province and Abra as well as KLG Quirino-Nueva Vizcaya which used to operate along the two provinces' boundary.

Police Maj. Gen. Ferdinand Daway, the PNP's director for Integrated Police Operations in Northern Luzon explains, "the parameters of dismantling NPA fronts are stipulated in the AFP and PNP’s Joint Letter Directive Number 3 series of 2020 which include clearing of all affected barangays, neutralization of the terrorist group's politico-military structure and reduction of enemy strength to a squad level, among others."

As commonly used, a squad has up to 10 people, with three to four squads constituting a platoon.

Prior to the declarations, combined AFP and PNP counterinsurgency operations resulted in "[pushing] the communist rebels to an irreversible collapse," the military said. 

Most recent among these were the "neutralization" of a "Regional White Area secretary" and two NPA finance officers in just a span of five days which marked the beginning of December, Daway said.

Authorities also said there has been decreased support for the rebel movement from the people with 4,378 "persona non grata" declarations issued by local government units.

Burgos said soldiers will work with local chief executives, the people and other stakeholders "as we continue to push the communist rebels to a state of irrelevancy."

CPP: Past predictions have been wrong

Marco Valbuena, information officer of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines countered: "We must remember that through the past decades, all of the AFP's past predictions of crushing the NPA have all been proven wrong." He said the predicted collapse of the rebel movement "will surely end up as another futile declaration."

He said "the AFP is mistaken to believe that it can decimate the NPA through sheer overwhelming military force."

The CPP information officer further claimed that the NPA in Northern and Central Luzon "will continue to steadily gain strength in the coming months and years, as they surmount the enemy's relentless offensives and overcome their internal shortcoming." 

Valbuena maintained that the NPA "have an unbreakable bond with the peasant and national minority masses" because "they are helping the masses wage struggles to demand a reduction in land rent, the elimination of usury and fair prices for their produce, especially after the recent calamities which severely affected their livelihood."

Nolcom has the largest area of operations among all the unified commands of the military throughout the country, which Burgos said means the military has to perform 
internal security, territorial defense and disaster response operations.

"Thus, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have that sense of urgency in defeating insurgency in the soonest possible time so that we can fully refocus our efforts in the greater challenge of preserving the Filipinos’ sovereignty over every inch of Philippine territory."

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