DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. (Screengrab from DND Facebook live video)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. on Wednesday strongly deplored the New People's Army's (NPA) landmine attack on Tuesday that injured government troops conducting operations in Northern Samar.

"The DND strongly condemns the landmine blast perpetrated by the communist terrorist group (CTG) against our troops conducting immersion and clearing operations in Mapanas, Northern Samar, yesterday, July 5. The blast resulted in the injuries of seven of our men from the 20th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army," he added.

While calling the incident an isolated one, Faustino said the NPA landmine blast is a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

"More specifically, an incontrovertible violation of the Ottawa Convention, which bans and condemns the use of landmines," the DND official added.

Faustino also said that under the administration of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in collaboration with National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos, the government will strengthen all efforts against the communist terrorists through the National Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which is functional and highly effective in delivering essential services to communities nationwide located geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

"We will relentlessly support the whole-of-nation approach to the government’s counter-insurgency operations to address the root causes of the insurgency, and finally end the scourge wrought by these terrorists on the Filipino people," he added.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said five ranking NPA terrorists surrendered to government forces after realizing the futility of their cause in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte last July 4.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor, in a statement, said these NPA leaders surrendered to the 402nd Infantry Brigade in Barangay Bancasi.

Per reports from 402nd Infantry Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Adonis Ariel G. Orio, the surrendered rebels came from Sub-Regional Committee 3 (SRC3) under the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

They are Rogelio Gerondo Jr, SRC3 secretary and concurrent head of Sub-Regional Operations Command (SROC); Ruek Namansulay, FOC head; Maricel Lunsayan, Political Officer; Rexon Guinar Sr, Political Officer; and Nita Guinar of the Medic Platoon.

They surrendered two M-16 automatic rifles, one M-14 assault rifle, and two caliber .45 pistols.

"The surrenderers decided to lay down their arms as they realized the futility of their armed struggle, and they saw the development brought by the government in their communities," Orio said.

The latest surrender of these NPA members in the Caraga Region is another success of the local peace initiatives on the ground implemented by the NTF-ELCAC nationwide.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, 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 created in April 1973.

First day at work

On Wednesday, Faustino reported physically to the DND for his first day of work.

Faustino was accorded arrival honors by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and was welcomed by the officials and employees of the DND.

He formally took over the helm of the department on July 1 and has been performing his duties remotely while undergoing the required isolation period after testing positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) last week.

Faustino, who remained asymptomatic since testing positive for Covid-19, is fully vaccinated and boosted.

In accordance with health and safety protocols, he completed a seven-day isolation period before reporting physically to work. (PNA)