By William Depasupil Reporter
ALMOST 400 people, majority of them civilians, have been killed in encounters between New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces and other related atrocities since 2011, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. on Tuesday disclosed that from 2011 up to the first quarter of 2013, insurgency-related atrocities led to the killing of 383 people, 158 of whom were civilians. Of the death toll, 147 were soldiers and military officers, 52 were members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) and 26 were policemen.
He did not say how many NPA rebels were in clashes.
The Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP)-Bayanihan, the AFP’s new anti-insurgency campaign strategy, was implemented in 2011.
The strategy focuses on winning the peace and not just defeating the enemy, anchored on the whole-of-nation approach and people-centered security/human security approach.
Burgos, however said that despite the series of NPA attacks, including the recent ambush of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona, NPA-initiated violent incidents (NIVIs) during the first quarter of the year has significantly decreased by 33 percent to 61 incidents from 91 during the fourth quarter of 2012.
Burgos attributed the decrease to the NPA’s shift from force revolutionary taxation to electoral activities through the imposition of permit-to-campaign (PTC) and permit-to-win (PTW) fees on politicians running in the coming mid-term election.
According to Burgos, of the 61 NIVIs this quarter, 49 percent were harassments of AFP and CAA detachments while the rest were criminal and terroristic activities.
Burgos stressed though that even with the decrease in NIVI during the January to March period, the AFP is not letting its guard down.
“The AFP will likewise continue to exhaust all measures and avenues to contribute to the overall effort of the government for the peaceful closure of conflict,” he said.
He added that government forces will continue with its focused combat operations against the NPA to protect civilians in the countryside.
“We call on our misguided brothers in the NPAs to abandon the armed violence that is destroying public infrastructures ad vital economic facilities and even causing loss of innocent lives,” Burgos added. “If they are pro-people, they must abandon the armed violence that has been the primary cause of our people’s sufferings.”
Meanwhile, former Rep. Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan said NPA rebels who attack and extort millions of pesos from political candidates should be brought to justice.
“The checkpoints, the extortion through the so-called permit-to-campaign and permit-to-win, and the use of violence remind me of the machinery of coercion that Marcos established to subvert the will of the people, the same violent tool deployed by the Ampatuans to kill and bury their enemies,” Hontiveros said. “We should reject coercion from NPA with the same intensity as our condemnation of military abuse. If we don’t like policemen who extort money, we should likewise condemn the NPA for extortion,” she added.
With reports from William B. Depasupil and Llanesca T. Panti