With seven months to go before 2023 fades into memory, the Marcos Jr. administration appears dead-set on ending this year the 55-year-old armed rebellion waged by the Maoist New People’s Army (NPA).
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) believes the goal is achievable.
That’s because the military has waged all-out war against the NPA in the countryside, and news reports indicate the rebel group appears to be taking too many casualties in the battlefield.
Besides, the military has managed to neutralize some of the rebel group’s leaders, including, most recently, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma somewhere in Samar island, along with 10 others, perhaps their security escorts.
The National Security Council now headed by National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, who used to be the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government under the previous administration, has come out with the news that only two NPA guerrilla fronts remain active.
According to the NSC, some 20 guerrilla fronts across the country, which it did not identify, have actually “weakened.”
Since these guerrilla fronts have not been totally neutralized, they still have access to firearms so they can still mount small-scale attacks against remote military and police outposts
“When we say weakened, they are running out of barangays or a mass base. That’s where they get their strength, from the support of the villagers… The remaining 20 guerrilla fronts, some still have weapons,” the NSC said.
The agency said it is monitoring the rebels, since they are still capable of mounting attacks, but not in large formations as before, when they could organize 20 up to 40 armed rebels.
The NTF-ELCAC claims to have cleared over 2,000 barangays from the influence of the NPA, who they describe as ‘communist terrorist groups” (CTG).
But around 400 barangays are still controlled by the NPA, it admitted: “The military was committed to ending things this year. They are very, very hopeful that all the guerrilla fronts will be finished (by then). We will weaken them and wipe them out eventually.”
The expected end of the communist insurgency, however, will require government to allocate more funding to assist the affected communities get back on their own two feet and emancipate themselves from debilitating poverty.
If the timetable is a mere seven months to finally bring the nearly 55-year-old armed rebellion to its knees, would that be a realistic goal?