A few days before the ceasefire called by the New People’s Army (NPA) takes effect, and a week before the government’s talks with communist leaders start, the Armed Forces reiterated that it intends to defeat the rebel group, either by force or through peace negotiations.
“Our hitherto intent is to defeat the NPA, by force and by peace negotiations—but not necessarily in that order. We will decimate their ranks by neutralizing their armed component, [and] help integrate surrenders to mainstream society,” said AFP spokesperson Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo.
Arevalo also downplayed the NPA, saying its strength and numbers have dwindled considerably.
These days, he said, the Communist Party of the Philippine’s (CPP) armed wing has been “relegated to pure banditry and terrorism,” as it continues to collect money and goods from civilians as “revolutionary taxes.”
Earlier this week, National Democratic Front senior adviser Luis Jalandoni said he believes the CPP-NPA "will be firm in saying that [the collection of revolutionary taxes] is the function of the revolutionary movement and government."
He also denied it is extortion, claiming it is collected “to provide the needs of the people, provide the services and then it’s through the process of negotiation to find an agreeable middle point that both sides could agree on," he said.
The halt to the collection of such taxes was one of the conditions set by President Rodrigo Duterte in the continuation of talks between the government and the Reds.
The NPA on Monday celebrated the 48th anniversary of its foundation, with supporters staging a lighting rally in Cubao, Quezon City.