FATALITIES. Bodies of New People's Army (NPA) rebels lay outside the municipal hall of Las Navas, Northern Samar. Six NPA fighters, including a top leader in the region, were killed in a fierce gun battle with government forces in an upland village in Las Navas town on Nov. 23, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The death of the top leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Eastern Visayas during a clash in Las Navas, Northern Samar will cause a leadership vacuum among armed rebels in the region, an official of the Philippine Army said on Tuesday.

Philippine Army 20th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Joemar Buban said the communist group in the region is now demoralized by the death of Helenita Pardales alias Ka Elai, the top leader of the NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

Pardales is one of the six slain rebels when government forces launched an attack in remote Imelda village in Las Navas town on Nov. 23, destroying a major lair of NPA with 30 huts and a big cottage for meetings.

“This is a big blow to their organization since there is a leadership vacuum. The remaining guerrilla fronts operating in Northern Samar will have no guidance. We all know that they don’t have a succession of command,” Buban told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview.

The recovery of 18 high-powered firearms will likewise weaken the NPA organization in the region and Northern Samar province.

“Abandoning their firearms means they are demoralized and not capable of fighting the government,” Buban added.

Capt. Valben Almirante, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 803rd Brigade said in a phone interview that aside from Pardales, also killed are two provincial NPA leaders in Northern Samar as identified by former rebels.

Almirante said they have launched a hot pursuit operation to hunt the NPA members that scattered after the fierce gun battle.

“They will surely suffer starvation since we have already cleared neighboring villages. We have also recovered several mobile phones and they will not be able to contact their supporters,” Almirante added.

The incident will affect the plans of the NPA for the upcoming Communist Party of the Philippines anniversary on Dec. 26.

The group belongs to the regional party committee positioned to support the remaining four NPA guerilla fronts operating in Northern Samar.

The Army’s 803rd Infantry Brigade has been monitoring the movement of four remaining guerrilla fronts in Eastern Visayas, all operating in the province.

The military estimated that there are still about 300 NPA fighters belonging to the four fronts and their supporters hiding in the mountains. (PNA)