Not too long ago, the Department of National Defense announced the Armed Forces of the Philippines had, for all intents and purposes, achieved “strategic victory” over the New People’s Army (NPA).
On March 12, for instance, the police in Quezon province reported that 10 out of 41 municipalities there had been freed from the clutches of the Maoist rebels.
Real town in the northern part of the province was the latest to be declared as having a “Stable Internal Peace and Security” (SIPS) or insurgency-free status.
On Feb. 27, the towns of Infanta and General Nakar, also in the northern part of the province at the base of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, were declared by the police, military and local government officials as insurgency-free.
Before 2022 ended and early this year, the towns of Macalelon, Unisan, Gumaca, San Narciso and the island-municipalities of Alabat, Perez and Quezon located in Alabat island in the Pacific Ocean had also been declared NPA-free localities. Macalelon, Unisan and San Narciso municipalities are located in the province’s 3rd district (Bondoc Peninsula), a known former NPA bailiwick in the Southern Tagalog region since the 1980s.
In August last year, Davao Occidental was also declared insurgency-free by the Philippine Army and the local government unit.
Army officials said in 2016, NPA’s Guerilla Front Tala operating in the province had a total of 43 rebels, 89 firearms and five barangays under its influence. But all these are now gone, according to the military.
Earlier, the army also declared the province of Davao de Oro freed from the armed communist insurgency after eight full-blown NPA guerrilla fronts were either dismantled or destroyed.
Military authorities cited the death of the highest ranking NPA leader in Mindanao and two guerrilla front secretaries as factors in dismantling the insurgency in the area.
From 2016 to 2022, the 10th Infantry Battalion units in Davao de
Oro figured 1in 59 armed encounters which resulted in 42 NPAs killed, 619 surrendered, 103 captured, and 776 firearms recovered.
In September 2019, Laguna was declared insurgency-free, making it the second province in the Calabarzon to be declared a SIPS area. Aside from Laguna, Cavite had also been declared SIPS in December 2018, followed by Romblon in February 2019 and Marinduque in March the same year.
Under the AFP’s phases of normalization, a province is given the SIPS status if no NPA attack on government forces has taken place for at least one year.
The question is: If what the AFP is saying is true, will we see the NPA rebellion withering on the vine in the foreseeable future, especially now that Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines which leads the NPA, has already passed away?