Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, in a manner of speaking.
According to Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino, the military establishment’s most urgent task is “to defeat threat groups,” which include communist rebels and ISIS-linked terrorists.
The military’s intensified campaign against insurgents has been gaining ground, he pointed out, with guerrilla fronts of the New People’s Army down to five and its active membership reduced to only around 2,000 from a high of 25,000 in the 1980s.
“While we have major success stories in our counterinsurgency [campaign] … our task is not over yet,” the General said.
Going after the NPA with hammer and tongs is one of the key directives of the AFP with Centino at the helm.
His other directives are: optimizing resources to support the operational requirements of the troops; advancement of professionalism and meritocracy; continued support for modernization; and proactive deployment of military assets for disaster response.
How feasible is the current AFP leadership’s vow to put an end to the communist rebellion, perhaps within the term of office of the Marcos administration?
The military believes with the death last month of Jose Ma. Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which provides the ideological and political direction of the insurgency, the NPA has been considerably weakened and would lose motivation in pursuing “people’s war” based on their concept of “encircling the cities from the countryside.”
Col. Medel Aguilar, AFP spokesman, said as much.
He described Sison’s passing as a devastating setback for the communist insurgency, as this would lead to low morale among those in the underground.
“Of course, it will further weaken the underground mass organization…this means that they will also lose their sense of purpose, their direction, and therefore would lead to demoralization among its members, disintegration, and hopefully the end of armed struggle,” Medel said.
The military’s optimistic view is shared by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, who recently cited the gains made by government through the whole-of-nation approach that prioritizes the delivery of livelihood, education, housing, health and other social services to poor and disadvantaged communities that are the recruiting ground of the NPA.
Secretary Abalos believes that the institutionalization of the “whole-of-nation approach has been a game changer in addressing the ills of society – poverty, social inequality, historical injustices.
“We are finally addressing the roots of insurgency at its core.”
We really hope so.