By Francis Wakefield
The terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) is losing at least three regular fighters daily to the government – either through surrender or arrest – in combat operations in Eastern Mindanao.
This was revealed by Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-EastMinCom) which has jurisdiction over Davao, Compostela Valley, and CARAGA Region.
“Basically, the NPA loses about three regular members daily. Two, due to surrender and the other arrested during combat operation. We are also able to recover about three firearms daily,” Madrigal said.
The military is also able to effect the surrender daily of at least five militia men. More than 300 of them have turned themselves in since January.
“We have a good turn-out not only on regular members but the most important is the support elements like the militia, the parties in the localities and what we call active masses or members of the underground mass organization. Without their support, the regulars won’t survive,” Madrigal added.
Support, Madrigal said, does not only come in terms of food but they also provide information, collect funds and provide means of transportation to the regular NPA fighters.
One of the reasons terrorists return to the fold of the law is the sincerity shown by the President and how the government strives to provide for returnees in order for them to live normal and better lives, Madrigal explained.
The EastMinCom chief said through the help Noel Legaspi, he was able to convince members in Davao del Sur, Sarangani, and General Santos to come down from the mountains, return to their families and live a normal life.
Legaspi alias Ka Efren is the deputy secretary and spokesman of the Far South Mindanao Region (FSMR) of the NPA. He surrendered with his wife, a medical staff of FSMRon January 15, 2018. He was a leader of the League of Filipino Students in 1992 and became a regular member of the NPA six years later.
As the returnees increased in number, the NPA’s recruitment program suffered immensely, Madrigalsaid.
On Monday, about 188 former NPA rebels and supporters from Mindanao arrived in Manila for their turn to break bread with President Dutertein Malacañang and top officers of the AFP some of whom they have crossed paths in their respective operations for ideology and territory.
The third batch of NPA returnees were welcomed by AFP Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Salvador MelchorMisonJr in simple ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday.
The 188 former rebels are part of a group of 683 NPA fighters who met with President Duterte inPanacan, Davao City onDecember 21, 2017.
After meeting the President, the former rebels will be given a tour of historical sites today, among them Luneta Park and Intramuros and meet former NPA fighters who now work as advocates of peace and development.
The returnees are composed of 537 males and 93 females who are regular NPA members, supporters and mass organizations membersfrom Compostela Valley, Davao Del Sur, Davao Del Norte, Agusan, Surigao, and nearby provinces.