LEAVING NPA. The two disgruntled New People's Army members in Leyte when they surrendered on Nov. 24, 2021. Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division on Monday (June 20, 2022) said at least 385 fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been neutralized in Eastern Visayas since the operationalization of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC). (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – At least 385 fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been neutralized in Eastern Visayas since the operationalization of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC), a top military official said.

Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division recalled that before the formation of the task force from 2016 to 2018, there were only 102 NPA members killed, captured, or surrendered.

The number of neutralized members of the communist terrorist group has nearly tripled from 2019 to the second quarter of 2022.

Of the 385 NPA members neutralized through the intervention of TF-ELCAC, 257 surrendered voluntarily or through persuasion from local authorities, 65 were killed, and 63 were captured.

“Majority of NPA fighters surrendered because the local government units are active partners in convincing them. Lack of operational expenses and support to families of NPA members causes demoralization within NPA ranks,” De Leon said during the meeting of the regional TF-ELCAC at the Summit Hotel here on Monday night.

In the past three years, 603 members of the Batakang Organisasyon han Partido (BOP), the rebels' mass organization in villages, withdrew their support from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Likewise, 7,068 members of the Hul-os na Asosasyong Masa, who used to support the NPA’s armed struggle, disaffiliated from the National Democratic Front (NDF) from 2019 to mid-2022.

The withdrawal of membership from CPP and NDF reduced the flow of money and material resources to the NPA.

These former supporters were formed into 343 people’s organizations provided with livelihood support from the government. They are being tapped as peace advocates in their communities.

De Leon recalled that before the operationalization of the whole-of-nation approach from 2016 to 2018, no village was cleared from threats of NPA. Since 2019, the NPA has been driven away from 320 villages in Eastern Visayas.

“The clearing of affected barangays translated to zero recruitment. Tactical victories were brought about by clearing of affected villages,” de Leon added.

During the period, seven of the nine NPA guerrilla fronts in the region were dismantled. The two remaining fronts are in Samar and Northern Samar provinces.

“Two more guerrilla fronts will be dismantled towards the end of the month. We are optimistic to achieve that since they are now on the verge of collapse,” de Leon said.

The weakening of NPA in Eastern Visayas is a result of a whole-of-nation approach by linking arms between basic service providers from the central government, community participation from the local governments, and the security sector from the military and police.

In support of the fight against NPA, several local government units have formed their local task force (TF)-ELCAC.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 70 on Dec. 4, 2018, which gave birth to the national TF-ELCAC. The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” to end the decades-old armed struggle.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)