Communist rebel forces cut by tenth, military says

Posted on July 04, 2015

THE PHILIPPINE military has reduced forces of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) by a tenth after it neutralized more than 300 of its members, the armed forces’ spokesperson said on Friday.

“A total of 340 members of the NPA were neutralized starting in the first quarter of 2015 until as of today. And around 166 firearms were recovered in various operations all over the country. From its strength of 4,443 as recorded in last quarter of 2014, the NPA are now down to 4,092 in the first quarter of 2015,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Lt. Col. Harold M. Cabunoc said.

Fifty-eight provinces were also declared peaceful and ready for further development while ten were declared as clear.

“A total of 330 cases were also filed against the New People’s Army in the courts while at the same time, 212 warrants of arrest were released,” he said further.

One of the most notable gains in the military’s campaign against the NPA was the death of notorious NPA leader Leoncio Pitao, codename ‘commander Parago,’ who was killed in June 28 in Davao City.

The military also benefitted from the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, believed to be the top leaders of the rebel group, at a safe house in Cebu City last year.

Another high profile arrest was the that of Adelberto Silva, believed to be the second highest leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who was arrested in Cavite last month.

The AFP official also said that other insurgent groups, namely the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), also took huge casualties from the military’s campaign.

“The AFP also gained ground against the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf with the neutralization of 72 members of the Abu Sayyaf and 192 members of the BIFF,” he also said.

This puts the troop strength of the BIFF, a separatist group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to less than 200. Earlier this year, the military mounted a month-long offensive against the BIFF yielding the capture of bomb factories and enclaves of the rebel group.

For the Abu Sayyaf, Mr. Cabunoc said that their campaign would now put the numbers of the Abu Sayyaf, a radical group responsible for kidnappings and bombings, to around 330.

The 125,000-strong AFP, with its three service branches -- the Philippine Army, the Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Air Force -- maintains six unified commands all over the country. This are the Cebu-based Central Command (CENTCOM), the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) in Tarlac, the Western Command (WesCom) in Palawan, the Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) in Lucena, Quezon, the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Davao and the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) in Zamboanga. -- Alden M. Monzon