CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City — The terrorist group Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is disintegrating and nearing collapse in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

This was announced by Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, the Commander of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division following its 1st quarter campaign review and assessment held at Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City. Gacal said the CPP-NPA which is listed internationally as a terrorist organization, is on a continuous decline and on the brink of collapse after suffering massive debacles in 2019 and during the 1st quarter of 2020.

Gacal who also serves as Chairperson of the Regional Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict- Technical Working Group (RTFTWG) in Region 10, and Vice-Chairperson of RTF-TWG in Region 13 said the decline is largely due to the national government’s implementation of the Whole-of-Nation Approach (WNA) to end the local communist armed conflict. He claimed that the peace and development campaigns being pursued in the two regions significantly contributed to the reduction of manpower, firearms and affected barangays of the CPP- NPA.

Dwindling members

Gacal said the focused and sustained military operations, and law enforcement support operations launched by combined government forces resulted in the killing of 51 armed NPA terrorists and the capture of 54 others. He said the capability of the terror group to conduct violent activities was also reduced with the capture of 732 firearms and assorted war paraphernalia including IHL- banned anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices. Army and police units also overran 225 mountain hideouts which were reportedly used for manufacturing IEDs, and as training grounds for new NPA recruits.

Massive surrender

The local government unit-backed Community Support Programs (CSP) implemented by various units of the 4ID in poor, marginalized, conflictaffected and conflict vulnerable communities resulted in the surrender 6,787 regular members and supporters of the NPA including Milisya ng Bayan (local militias), Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (Local Party Branch) and Underground Mass Organization members in the two regions. The said program serves as a link of the local populace with the local government units and agencies, and aims to enhance the delivery of basic services to the people. Community Support Teams of 4ID have teamed up with their counterparts from local PNP offices in identifying and facilitating the resolution of primary issues affecting communities through community participation and enhanced stakeholder convergence.

Gacal said concerned government agencies including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD),and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) are actively facilitating the enrollment of the surrenderees in the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the national government. E-CLIP offers livelihood and financial assistance to former rebels to facilitate their re-integration to the mainstream society.

NPA’s 51 years of violence

Meanwhile, the NPA has marked its 51 years of existence with a new wave of terror after killing two elderly and innocent tribespeople at Sitio Inadan, Brgy Magroyong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur last March 19, 2020. Several armed NPAs hacked to death Manobo Tribal Chieftain Hawudon Bernardino Astudillo, 73, and Zaldy Ibaňez, 52. The killings were since denounced by various sectors, tribal group leaders and local chief executives. Curiously, the self-proclaimed human rights group Karapatan and other progressive groups have remained mum about the killings.

Gacal also slammed the terrorist group for the gruesome murder which was perpetrated while the entire nation is scrambling to fight against COVID-19. “This incident is yet another proof of the true color and character of the CPP-NPA-NDF over the last five decades. They have nothing to show for but a trail of violence and blood on their hands. That is their 51-year legacy: violence and human rights abuses against our very own people”, he said.

However, Gacal said he is optimistic that peace and development is already within reach in the two regions especially with the implementation of Convergence Areas for Peace and Development (CAPDev) Program, and Peace and Development Zones (PDZ) in Northern Mindanao and Caraga respectively. These initiatives aim to address the root causes of insurgency through focused, coordinated and enhanced delivery of socioeconomic development programs and projects in conflict- affected and conflict vulnerable areas.

“We are on the right track in winning the peace and promoting development in the two regions. Let us press on the fight and end the local communist armed conflict now”, he added.