The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expects the New People’s Army (NPA) to intensify its recruitment activities to boost the number of its fighters.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs chief, said to counter the NPA recruitment, the military will hold dialogs with students, school heads and local government units.
“Now that we are conducting our focused military operations against the terrorist New People’s Army, we are expecting them to recruit because they think that they will be needing more members to counter the operations being conducted by the government,” Arevalo told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday tagged the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines terrorist organizations.
“When it comes to recruitment, first of all, we all know that they will resort to that because they are aware that they are getting smaller,” Arevalo said.
To prevent the recruitment of students in state and private educational institutions, Arevalo said the military will initiate dialogues with students to inform them of the peace and order situation.
“We have a program, the Youth Leader Summit, that will give us a chance to interact with the youth to discuss with them also the real status of our peace and security and also, to know their opinions on certain issues concerning peace and security,” Arevalo said.
A day after Duterte tagged the NPA a terror group, military officials placed Central Mindanao under heightened alert following reports that NPA rebels threatened to attack vital government facilities.
Army intelligence sources revealed that the NPA Front 73 will carry out missions to destroy power lines of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines and communications facilities.
Col. Benjamin Leander, the commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion based in South Cotabato, said the military is prepared for any communist attack.
“If they sow terror and create widescale atrocities and hostilities here in Mindanao region, then we are always ready,” Leander said.
He said their 27th army foot patrol on Sunday clashed with NPA guerillas and killed four rebels at Sitio Datal, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
However, Church officials claimed that those killed in the encounter were not NPA rebels but members of an indigenous tribe.
Fr. Ariel Destora, the Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel, said the families of those killed were blaming the military for the deaths of Datu Damyan, his two sons and a son-in-law.
Damyan was the chairman of the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimant Organization.
Leander said NPA guerillas are recruiting young members of the indigenous tribe in Lake Sebu.
2nd Lieutenant Ranjan Palacio, the spokesman of the 27th IB, maintained that those killed were NPA rebels.
Leander said the communist group is also recruiting young tribesmen.
“These NPA recruiters will make promises that if members of a family would join the group, (they) will be compensated and the family would have a better future. But its only guns and ammos the NPA can give, not a better future,” Leander said.
with JERRY N. ADLAW