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SAMAR, Philippines – The Philippine Army on Tuesday, April 18, admitted there were still two active insurgency fronts in Eastern Visayas, but vowed to beat these this year.
“They’re now hiding mostly in the wilds of Northern Samar,” said Captain Jeff Mariano, chief of Public Affairs Office of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City.
The Army official said there was an intensified inter-agency operation to defeat the remaining insurgents – Front Committee 15 and Front Committee 1 – and their support structure. “Optimistic kami sa 8ID na ang FC1 at FC15 will be dismantled (on or before) 3rd quarter of this year,” Mariano told Rappler.
Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr., executive director of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) presided over a consultative meeting on April 11 to assess the direction of the campaign in the six provinces of the region.
Present at the meeting were leaders and officials from the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Regional Development Council and the Regional Peace and Order Council 8, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity, and NTF-ELCAC.
Major General Camilo Ligayo, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, reported during the meeting that they dismantled a pair of NPA front committees – Sub-Regional Committee (SRC) 2 Emporium and Sub-Regional Committee (SRC) 3 Arctic. This was confirmed by the joint AFP/PNP Area Clearing Validation Board in the region.
“We still have 2 more fronts, and one of them is now very weak,” Mariano told Rappler, adding that there was no more mass base that supported the underground movement.
“Yan ang inuna natin gawin. Ang i-isolate sila sa mass base support by doing Community Support Program para madisintegrate sila to the community,” Mariano said.
(That was what we did first. We isolated the mass base support by doing community supports program. This is to disintegrate them from the community.)
Mariano said the 2 fronts had “mga nasa 200 nalang siguro ang warriors nila (about 200 fighters each.)
The military’s report said that for the first quarter of 2023, at least 16 key leaders and three finance officers of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), two CPP-NPA members were killed; five were captured; and 43 surrendered.
The Army said among those killed were high-ranking NPA officials “Michael” and “Laban” – the finance officer of SRC Levox and commander of NPA’s “Yakal” platoon of SRC Browser, respectively.
Government troops also seized 68 assorted firearms and 24 anti-personnel mines, and discovered 31 enemy hideouts.
8ID commander Ligayo attributed their notable accomplishments to the stakeholders especially to the NTF-ELCAC thru Usec. Torres, that he said, “vital in helping the region attain long and lasting peace.”
“Through his (Usec. Torres) guidance, we can also (hope to finally) dismantle and end the decades-long insurgency in the region just like what he did when he was still the commander of the 10th Infantry Division where he became instrumental in the dismantling of guerilla fronts.”
The NPA has been waging a guerrilla war for 54 years now, the longest ongoing conflict in the country. It considered by government as a “terrorist organization.” – Rappler.com
Ricky Bautista is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow.