By Aaron Recuenco
At least 148 communist rebels and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed since January this year but the military vowed to finish them off in order to lick the country’s internal security problems.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. has ordered commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force to intensify efforts against all the threat groups especially in Mindanao and other areas in Luzon and the Visayas where the communist rebels operate.
“I am directing the commanders at all levels to take the extra mile. Our mission accomplishment is directly proportional to the capacity and capability of our personnel and units to execute their mission. At the end of the day, it is our leadership that matters,” said Madrigal during a command conference with top military officials.
Based on the collated data from January to July 24 this year, a total of 95 members of the New People’s Army were killed while 145 others were arrested in various operations.
Madrigal said that the same time frame also resulted in the surrender of 5,788 communist rebels through the localized peace talks now currently being pursued by the government after the peace negotiations for peace talks with NPA leadership bogged down.
A total of 945 high-powered and handguns were seized during the period while 260 NPA encampments were seized, according to the military data.
On the part of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the military reported that it killed 53 bandits and captured 12 others. A total of 24 ASG fighters also surrendered.
Other threat groups include the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is intensifying its operational tempo, particularly in Mindanao to dismantle the Abu Sayyaf Group. Intelligence collection and active coordination with local government units will also be bolstered to achieve this target,” said Madrigal.
President Duterte earlier ordered both the police and the military to finish off the ASG after the attack of two suicide bombers, one of them a Filipino, at a military camp in Sulu.
The entire Mindanao has been under martial rule since May 2017 when Maute gunmen laid siege in Marawi City.
Communist rebels operate mainly in the eastern part and some part of central Mindanao while Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim extremists operate in the western part of Mindanao and some parts of central Mindanao.
Although martial law has been in place since May 2017, several bombings still occurred including the Jolo Cathedral suicide bombing perpetrated by an Indonesian couple which left more than 20 people dead, and the Sulu suicide bombing attack that killed three soldiers and three civilians.
Security officials said the attacks could have been worse if there is no martial law in Mindanao.