MANILA – The declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) members as personae non gratae is a "voluntary gesture" from local government units (LGUs), particularly at the barangay level, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Monday.
Esperon said the government does not require LGUs to declare the CPP-NPA and its front organizations as such as a condition to benefit from the Barangay Development Program (BDP), the government's counter-insurgency plan, which aims to deliver various government programs in conflict-afflicted and geographically isolated villages that have been considered "cleared" from the influence of communist rebels.
"The declaration of persona non grata is voluntary on their side, and by resolution of their councils, for municipalities is by Sangguniang Bayan and for the barangays is the Sangguniang Barangay," he said in a press conference.
Esperon said all municipalities and cities in the Ilocos region and Central Luzon have declared CPP-NPA members unwelcome in their communities.
"It's not a requirement for them," he said.
Various national government agencies, security forces, and local government units have been pushing for community support programs for conflict-affected areas, particularly those infiltrated by communist terrorist groups.
"When we worked with the barangays, through the community support program, that means involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the local government units. The resolution comes out of the process and it's not forced on them, meaning it becomes a voluntary gesture," Esperon said.
The BDP performs sustainable rehabilitation and development of villages formerly established as guerilla fronts of the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front.
Each barangay will get PHP20 million for various projects.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is tasked to implement an inclusive and sustainable framework towards attaining peace, including the BDP.
To date, there have been 3,684 regular former rebels and 2,039 Militia ng Bayan (MB) who have returned to the folds of the law, according to Esperon.
A Militia ng Bayan is defined as an individual who has been indoctrinated and may or may not be directly involved in the violent armed struggle but provides support to the revolutionary movement.
"Why has the strength of the armed group of the CPP-NPA remained at 4,000 or thereabouts? The answer is very simple, of course. There is continuing recruitment from the rounds of the Militia ng Bayan from the underground mass organizations and of course from the peasants, fisherfolks, labor sector and very especially students," Esperon said.
"Many people continue to be deceived by the promises of this long-running insurgency that seems to have no ending at all," he added.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)