MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said it foresees 19 guerrilla fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) dismantled “at the soonest possible time.”
AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro said there used to be 89 guerrilla fronts, but they were reduced to 24 as of recent data.
“We are happy to report that right now out of that 89, 24 nalang na guerrilla front ang kino-confront natin (we are only confronting 24 guerrilla fronts). And out of 24 guerrilla fronts, 19 are already weakened and we foresee that these 19 guerrilla fronts will be dismantled at the soonest possible time,” Bacarro said in an online press conference after the second National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) executive meeting.
He said the AFP has also reduced members of the NPA to 2,112 and firearms to 1,800.
Bacarro said the AFP is currently addressing five active guerrilla fronts in the areas of Northern Samar and South Cotabato.
“Now, we are focusing on those five active guerrilla fronts with only about 157 or 154 barangays…It’s not actually a challenge, but those are the things that we need to address right now,” he said.
He expressed confidence that the AFP would “successfully” address the country’s insurgency problem with the collaboration of the different agencies.
Last month, the AFP announced that it has dismantled five guerrilla fronts during the first 100 days in office of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson Secretary Clarita Carlos, for her part, reiterated the importance of taking a whole-of-nation approach to attain inclusive and sustainable peace.
“Everybody has to row together in the same direction to obliterate all the obstacles to our national development and this would be in the case of the enemies of the state, to make sure that all our 42,000 barangays would really have a chance to be part of our economic growth,” Carlos said.
More insurgency-free areas
Meanwhile, Bacarro said the AFP is expecting more areas in the country to be declared insurgency-free after Davao Region.
To recall, members of the Regional Peace and Order Council–Davao signed a resolution declaring the entire region as cleared of insurgents as of Sept. 19, 2022.
Davao Region is the third region in the country declared as insurgency-free, following Ilocos (Region 1) and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9).
“The next areas that will be declared as insurgency-free are in the areas of Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, and South Cotabato,” Bacarro said.
“Yung top leadership na matagal na nating hinahabol-habol doon (The top leadership that we have long been pursuing) was recently neutralized. And by this, we see a degradation in the terms of leadership and you know wala nang leader (there’s no more leader) so it will create a vacuum and we foresee some surrenderees in the coming days,” he added.
Marcos earlier welcomed the declaration of the Davao Region as “insurgency free”, describing it as a “collective victory” in attaining peace and security in the entire country.
Seeking Senate concurrence
In the same briefing, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) Undersecretary Isidro Purisima reiterated the NTF-ELCAC’s appeal for the Senate to support Presidential Proclamation 1093, which grants amnesty to members of the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG).
“For the communist terrorist groups, it’s still pending at the Senate. That’s why we appealed for the concurrence of Senate for this to be approved so that we can proceed with the amnesty program for the communist terrorist group,” Purisima said.
In January, the Senate adopted three House concurrent resolutions granting amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) who committed crimes under existing laws.
However, it did not concur with Proclamation 1093, which could have provided the same amnesty to members of the CTG.
Former president Rodrigo Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1090, 1091, 1092, and 1093 in February 2021.
The proclamations, which grant amnesty to the rebel groups, are in line with Executive Order 125 creating the National Amnesty Commission. (PNA)