MANILA, Philippines - Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista believes the New People’s Army (NPA) will become irrelevant in less than five years.
The NPA marks its 45th anniversary today.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Bautista said the NPA has degenerated into a gang of bandits who have no ideology.
“After five years, they (NPA) will be irrelevant,” he said. “They won’t even last for five years. Their focus now is extortion.”
However, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement the NPA is continuously gaining and acquiring 10,000 high-powered firearms.
“The strength of thousands of NPA Red fighters spread out in more than 110 guerrilla fronts covering significant portions of 71 provinces is amplified several times over by tens of thousands of people’s militias and hundreds of thousands of the masses’ self-defense forces,” read the statement.
“The CPP looks forward to the NPA’s rapid expansion to 25,000 fighters and the growth in the number of its guerrilla fronts to 200, covering every rural congressional district. This, as guerrilla warfare advances and more weapons are seized from the enemy.”
Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said the NPA will commemorate today 45 years of sowing fear against the Filipino people and 45 years of crimes against public order.
“We as people and as a nation denounce the NPA,” he said.
“Let us therefore have a collective call for the NPA armed group to end armed struggle and for us to have a sustained peace and development.”
Bautista again called on the NPA to abandon the armed struggle and to return to mainstream society.
“I hope they realize that there are other means to achieve our aspirations,” he said.
The NPA’s strength has dwindled to less than 4,000 fighters, the military said.
Pregnant Andrea to remain at NBI
Despite being nine months pregnant, the daughter of the late NPA spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal will remain detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Special Investigator 3 Aldrin Mercader said 31-year-old Andrea Rosal will be taken to a medical facility only if necessary.
“It would depend on the doctors,” he said.
“If, for instance, she would experience any pain, she could inform the jail guards who in turn would inform the NBI doctors who would check on her. If there is a need to bring her to a hospital, then we would do so.”
However, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she does not have a problem if Rosal would be subjected to hospital arrest as long as the court agrees.
Mercader said the NBI knew that Andrea was experiencing a difficult pregnancy even before she was arrested.
That’s why the arresting agents brought with them an ambulance, complete with medical staff, to transport her to NBI headquarters on Taft Avenue, Manila, he added.
Andrea is pregnant with her first child.
Mercader said the NBI is currently preparing a return of warrant to inform the Mauban, Quezon Regional Trial Court Branch 64 that Andrea has already been apprehended.
“The court will then issue a commitment order so we could transfer Andrea to Mauban,” he said.
She is the subject of two standing warrants of arrest.
Her first warrant for murder was issued last June 16, 2011, while the second for kidnapping with murder was issued on March 23, 2012.
Mercader said the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) learned about the whereabouts of Andrea and coordinated with the NBI to serve the warrants of arrest.
“Because of her medical condition, and there is a chance that her condition would worsen, we did not forcibly enter the house,” he said.
“We entered the gate and knocked on the door. It was Barangay Captain Ruben Gatchalian who opened the door and we mentioned their purpose.”
Gatchalian reportedly denied them entry and told the NBI agents that Andrea was not there.
The authorities finally barged in and one of the female NBI agents saw Rosal as she was reportedly about to hide in the bathroom.
At first Andrea denied that she was the woman they were looking for, but a rebel returnee identified her.
It is believed the arrests of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Andrea Rosal are signs that the government has taken the military solution in talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Speaking to reporters, Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center (PPC) said following the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the government is now thinking of pulling out troops in Mindanao and sending them to fight in NPA-infested areas.
“The government is being bullheaded when it comes to resuming the peace talks (with the NDF),” he said.
The arrests of Tiamzon couple and Rosal would be a hindrance to peace talks with communist rebels, Casambre said.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) agreed with Casambre’s view.
“We have now been witnessing a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations between the two parties,” PEPP said. “The NDF argues the arrest was a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees. The members of the government panel, on the other hand, are claiming that the couple are not covered by the agreement. Amidst all of these, the PEPP hopes that this will not lead to the total breakdown of the peace negotiations.”
The PPC said it was becoming evident, through the arrests, that the government “has no interest nor intent” in resuming negotiations with the NDF.
“With the Bangsamoro threat out of the way and with increased US military presence and facilities, the government anticipates redeploying the AFP and other security forces to deal with the CPP-NPA-NDF,” PPC said.
“Not a few in the AFP are now even talking about totally ‘crushing the communist rebels,’ with no less than the chief of staff openly calling for the mass surrender of the CPP and NPA leaders and members.”
Meanwhile, in Isabela province, Army troops clashed with NPA rebels in the wilderness of the Sierra Madre range in Villa Robles, San Mariano near the boundary of Palanan beginning 7:30 a.m. yesterday.
No casualties have been reported.
In a report, the Army’s 86th Battalion said troops overran an NPA camp and recovered improvised bombs and rebel documents.
In Cagayan de Oro City, 72 armed former NPA rebels surrendered to the military at Camp Evangelista to avail of the government’s Gun for Peace and Social Integration Program.
Capt. Christian Uy, Army Public Affairs Division spokesman, said they have set the turnover ceremony at the 4th Infantry Division gymnasium on Friday morning. – With Evelyn Macairan, Reinir Padua, Raymond Catindig, Gerry Lee Gorit