A total of 17,958 rebels have already surrendered to the government and returned to the fold of the law since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte took office, according to the Task Force Balik Loob under the Department of National Defense.
In the weekly virtual press conference of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and National Task Force to End Local Communists Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Navy Captain Ferdinand Buscato of the TFBL told reporters yesterday that a total of 17,958 rebels have so far surrendered beginning July 2016 up to May 28 of this year. Among them, 3,684 were “regular members” of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), 2,039 were from the Militia ng Bayan. 1,760 were from Underground Mass Organizations (UGMO) of the National Democratic Front (NDF), and 7,074 other mass supporters, Buscato said. At least 2,789 surrenderees are still undergoing verification by the Task Force.
It is important to note that through the E-CLIP or Enhanced Comprehensive Local Information Program being implemented by the TFBL, former rebels are reintegrated back with their families and are able to start over with financial benefits which include housing, education, and medical assistance, among others.
NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairperson Secretary and NSA Hermogenes Esperon Jr. confirmed the report, noting that “there are remaining guerilla fronts but more than half of these are deemed weakened because of the continuing surrenders and the favorable results of our operations, including the deployment of what we now call the Retooled Community Support Program which are clearing the barangays that used to be guerilla bases of the CPP-NPA.”
However, NTF-ELCAC official said that the many people are still being deceived by the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs) especially in far-flung barangays such as peasants, farmers, fisher folks, and “very especially from students” and the youth where recruitments are continuously being made to resupply the forces of the insurgents.
Esperon also said that the recent neutralization of Rey Bocala was another big blow to the CTGs as he was a top ranking rebel and the finance chief in the Panay region, as well as the neutralization of hit squads like the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the CPP-NPA in Rizal province on May 21 of this year. Several guerilla fronts have also been “dismantled” and hundreds of barangays are being cleared of communist insurgents.
One such front was the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command (PBC). According to Maj Alex D Mindalano of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the guerilla unit was deemed ineffective following the arrest of 14 of its members and supporters after a series of clashes with troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion that ended on May 24 in Makilala, North Cotabato. Among those captured were several high-ranking members identified as alias Maruz, PBC Secretary, Sub-Regional Committee 3, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SRC-3, SMRC); alias Niña, Platoon Medic; alias Yumi, head of Regional Medical Staff, SMRC and Political Instructor of PBC, SRC3, SMRC; alias Kid, Squad Leader of Segunda, PBC; alias Gleen, Platoon Medic; alias Roy, Vice Commanding Officer; and alias Jal, Team Leader of Baking Squad, PBC, SRC3, SMRC.
“With this clearing of barangays and the lessening of guerilla fronts, we continue to constrict the movements and the operations of the armed groups while we also address their operations in the so-called white areas, in the urbanized areas all over the country” he added.
Esperon pointed out that the communist insurgency in the country “has gone too long for 53 years” which is “four times the average of other revolutions in the history of the world”, but emphasized that it will not win.
“We will see to it that the cleared barangays will be developed. We will see to it that they will not be able recruit more of our youth who could just be wasting their lives for a revolution that is now deemed a failure”, he added.
Quoting Ruben “Ka Fandong” Guevarra, one of the founding members of the CPP-NPA who renounced and exposed the atrocities of the CTGs, who said that if the Filipino people would really have wanted to join this CPP-NPA national democratic revolution, they would have joined it already. It’s time to quit. It will not win,” Esperon told reporters.