125 Villages in panay are insurgency affected

ARMY UPDATES (From left) Captain Ruel Llanes, 301st IB Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer; Lieutenant Colonel Ericson Rosana, 3rd Infantry Division assistant chief of the staff for Civil Military Operation; and 1Lt. Hazel Durotan, 61st IB Information Officer. They gave updates on internal security matters, especially the rebel forces in Panay, in a press conference on Feb 6, 2019. (Jennifer P. Rendon)7

THE Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (IB) identified 125 barangays in four Panay provinces as insurgency-affected.

Majority of these barangays are located in Iloilo province, particularly in the towns of Alimodian, Guimbal, Igbaras, Leon, Miag-ao, San Joaquin, Tubungan, Bingawan, Calinog, Lambunao, Janiuay, Maasin, and Lemery.

Other barangays are in the towns of Dumalag, Jamindan, Mambusao, Sigma, Tapaz, Cuartero, Dumarao, and Maayon in Capiz province.

The town of San Remegio in Antique province and Libacao in Aklan made it to the list while none in Guimaras province.

But 1Lt. Hazel Durotan, 61st IB Information Officer , pointed out that this does not in any way connote growing support for the New People’s Army (NPA) in these areas considering that only 12 of the 125 barangays are considered “rebel-influenced.”

If a barangay is insurgency-influenced, it means that the NPA has established its barrio revolutionary committee and has the community’s mass-based support.

“They could have established a solid mass organization in that certain area,” Durotan said.

Based on records, Cuartero and Tapaz towns in Capiz province have the most numbers of rebel-influenced barangays at 4 and 3, respectively.

On the other hand, the towns of Alimodian, Tubungan, Calinog, Janiuay, and Maasin in Iloilo province have one influenced village each.

Meanwhile, eight of the 125 barangays are considered less influenced while 105 are threatened.

Durotan said that a barangay would be lumped into the less influenced category if the NPA get the support from some individuals, but not majority of the residents.

“They have supporters but these areas are not consisted as their stronghold,” she said.

A barangay is threatened, on the other hand, if these are at risk of being infiltrated by the rebel group.

One of the bases for an area to be placed in the election watchlist of areas (EWAs), or commonly known as election hotspots, is presence of serious armed threats” by “organized threat groups” like the NPA, the Bangsamoro Independent Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), among others.

The other two considerations are intense political rivalry and history of violent incidents.

But Lieutenant Colonel Ericson Rosana, 3rd Infantry Division’s assistant chief of the staff for Civil Military Operation, said the the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center (RJSCC), where the Armed Forces of the Philippines is a member, determines the EWAs.

Meanwhile, the 301st Infantry Brigade and 61st IB have been conducting Community Support Program in several villages in Panay, particularly in NPA-strongholds.

The CSP, which replaces AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan, emphasizes the military’s new thrust of enhancing nation-building and countryside development in relation to the peace policy of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Last year, Captain Ruel Llanes, 301st IB Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer, said the CSP was conducted in four barangays.

This year’s target will be 10 barangays.

Eventually, programs and activities will be instituted for these villages for them to be later declared as rebel-free barangays.