AMID a series of attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA) against innocent civilians and unarmed government forces, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remains confident that it is still winning the war under the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, the government’s new anti-insurgency strategy.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of Public Affairs Office (PAO), on Friday said that AFP still has the upper hand against the NPA with a 40% increase in military-initiated engagements against the armed rebels from fourth quarter of 2012 to first quarter of 2013.
Since January up to March this year, he added, the AFP recorded 96 focus-military operations against the NPA who only conducted 46.
Zagala claimed that through IPSP, more and more NPAs were returning to the government fold.
As per our record, he pointed out, 189 rebels have surrendered since January 1 including the 54 NPAs who surrendered on Sunday in Northern Samar.
Recent incidents on the other hand, he said, showed that the NPAs continue to attack soft targets which manifest the rebels’ projection that they are still a force to reckon with despite the fact that they are losing their mass base support and their strength continuously dwindling.
He also disclosed that early on Friday, undetermined number of NPAs ambushed a group of unarmed police trainees while on a morning roadrun in Cabunagan, Poblacion in Tadian, Mountain Province, which killed one and injured seven others.
“Those police personnel were unarmed and had no capacity to engage the NPAs in an armed confrontation. This violent act is an utter disrespect not only to the police who maintains peace in our communities but also to the people who benefit from the services provided by our law enforcers,” Zagala said.
Two weeks ago, the Maoist rebels also abducted five soldiers in Purok Lubas, Barangay Poblacion of Paquibatao district in Davao City. Similarly, the abducted AFP members were in civilian uniform and possibly armed only with short firearms.
Zagala said the AFP strongly condemn the attacks against unarmed law enforcers.
“However, these attacks should not hamper AFP’s ongoing peace and development programs which seek to address the root causes of insurgency. It only challenges the military to do better and further improve its ways to achieve the goal of a just and lasting peace for our country,” he added.
William B. Depasupil