By Jennifer P. Rendon
The PNP in Western Visayas claimed that the number of the New People’s Army (NPA) continues to dwindle.
“The number of NPA surrenderers in recent years could speak volumes that the rebel group is down to a negligible level,” Brigadier General Leo Francisco, Western Visayas police chief, said.
Data from the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 indicated that 111 former rebels (FRs) and former violent extremists (FVEs) surrendered from 2017 until 2022 in Western Visayas.
They either yielded to the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, and/or the local government unit.
Most of the surrenderers were 102 males, or 92 percent of the total number, while the remaining were nine women.
Only 34 surrenderers are awaiting to claim the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) grant.
E-CLIP is a government program that aims to help the rebel members of CPP-NPA-NDF and Militia ng Bayan restore their allegiance to the Philippine government.
For the first two months of this year, 27 FRs surrendered in Capiz and Iloilo.
Francisco believed that the E-CLIP grant was one of the factors that hastened the surrender of alleged rebels.
“The death of Jose Ma. Sison also served as a big blow in the entire NPA organization,” he said.
Sison, 83, died in December 2022 after two weeks of confinement in a hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
In the case of Negros Island, “the group has further weakened with the death of Magbanua,” Francisco said.
Francisco was referring to Romeo Nanta who used the aliases Juanito Magbanua, Juaning, and Jack.
Nanta was the alleged commanding officer of the Kometing Rehiyon-Negros (KR-N)’s Regional Operational Command and spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command.
He died in an encounter with members of the Philippine Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion at Sitio Medel, Barangay Carabalan, Negros Occidental on Oct. 10, 2022.
Meanwhile, Francisco believed that the active implementation of all the activities as embodied in the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC 6) has been a big boost in the government’s internal security operation (ISO).
Even earlier, the Philippine Army has also noted the weakening NPA strength in Panay and Negros islands.
Compared to three years ago, AFP Visayas Command chief Lieutenant General Benedict Arevalo said the NPAs in Panay are even weaker now.
“After the Miag-ao operation, we can see that they have really weakened and although they are harder to track now because they were able to adjust their operational practices to counter the effects that we delivered during the Miag-ao operation, we’re doing everything to pinpoint them with accuracy and be able to neutralize them as soon as possible,” he said.
Around nine rebels were killed after Army soldiers overran their lair at Miag-ao, Iloilo early morning of Dec. 1, 2021.
One of those killed was Joven Ceralvo alias Lex, a local NPA leader.
With Ceralvo’s death, the group is still scouring for a leader in the Panay area.
Arevalo said the NPA has around 200 to 250 armed combatants in Panay, which is also about the same number in Negros Island.