Conflicting claims as NPA marks 47th year

A TOP official of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao (NDFP-Mindanao) congratulated the New People’s Army (NPA) on turning 47 on Tuesday and chided the government for failing to crush Asia’s longest running insurgency.

“In Mindanao, the NPA has increased its strength. From the start of the US-Aquino III regime, it has grown to more than a hundred full-time NPA unit formations from squad, platoon to company. The NPA has been able to sustain numerous recruits because of the breadth and depth of established guerrilla zones and bases,” Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, spokesperson of the NDFP-Mindanao, said.

Madlos also claimed that the number of barrios where the NPA operates increased from 1,850 to more than 2,500 at present, covering more than 200 municipalities in 20 provinces in the whole of Mindanao.

Madlos lauded the NPA for launching more attacks against government and nongovernment targets.

Madlos said the NPA has been mounting more ‘tactical offensives’, from 250 such actions in 2010 to more than 500 last year.

A separate statement of the Communist Party of the Philippines-North Central Mindanao Region (CPP-NCMR) signed by Ka Norsen Manggubat, CPP-NCMR spokesperson, mentions the killing of Loreto, Agusan del Sur Mayor Dario Otaza, a former NPA rebel, as among the rebel group’s recent accomplishments.

Otaza, along with his son, was abducted and killed by NPA rebels in Butuan City on October 19, 2015.

The NPA later justified Otaza’s killing, saying the former rebel-turned politician was the 4th Infantry Division's most trusted person in its anti-insurgency campaign "Oplan Bayanihan."

The CPP earlier this year also lauded the NPA for the 12 "punitive actions" launched against plantations such as Del Monte, Dole, Lapanday, and Sumifru for the companies’ alleged unfair labor practices and for the same companies’ supposed destructive environmental practices.

The military, meanwhile, maintains it has been gaining ground against the rebels.

Major General Benjamin Madrigal, newly appointed commander of the 4ID, cited the supposed gains made by State forces, among them, the declaration of Caraga as ‘conflict manageable’ after a series of combat operations.

“Many have now helped us by providing timely and relevant information about the NPA’s location and activities. The success of all stakeholders, and we are now reaping the fruits of our collaboration,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal also called on the rebels to give up armed struggle and return to the fold of the law.

“We assure you of your safety and that the government through its Comprehensive Local Integration Program will cater your needs as you go back to mainstream society. This is the only way we could start building everyone’s dream that is to have a peaceful community that is conducive for development,” Madrigal said.

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