Twelve self-confessed former senior leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) faced top Philippine Army (PA) officials Tuesday, Sept. 7, not in the jungles or battlefield but in a conference room to share their personal journeys in the revolution and bare why they decided to quit the revolutionary movement.
In a virtual briefing, Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), presented the ex-communist leaders to the media in what was described as an “extraordinary” meeting between the two former hostile forces.
Among the ex-senior communist leaders is Arianne Jane Ramos alias Ka Marikit, 28, who surrendered on Aug. 1, 2021 due to the intense combat operations of the military.
Ramos had served as an NPA leader in Davao City for nine years. She said she was recruited as a former chairperson of Gabriela Youth in the University of the Philippines (UP) in Mindanao in 2012. Eventually, she was honed by the Party leaders until she was assigned to be the secretary of the Guerilla Front (GF) 52 of the Davao-Bukidnon Sub-Regional Operations Command of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (GF52, SROC, SMRC).
She said prior to her surrender, they were chased by the troops from the 1003rd Infantry Brigade for three months which resulted in the death of her partner, Rommel Tausan, an NPA commanding officer.
“I saw my husband dead, blood all over his face. I saw my comrades… wounded comrades, calling my name again and again, begging for help. For 40 days, we suffered from hunger, [we have] no proper hygiene. We literally don’t know where to go. For three months, [there were] nine consecutive encounters,” she recalled.
“That moment, it was very painstaking, nakakapagod na po (it was very tiring). It’s very painstaking to wage a war if you are just alone. The collective leadership sa loob ng Party ay dahan-dahang dumadausdos (inside the Party was slowly crumbling down) so I finally chose to focus on myself. Sabi nga nila, tao lang tayo at napapagod din (Like what they say, we’re only people and we are also getting tired),” she added.
Meanwhile, Christian Pastor alias “Khan” is a former commanding officer of the NPA’s GF 33, Southern Regional Command (SRC), SMRC in Davao De Oro. He surrendered in December 2020 because he could no longer feel the people’s support to the armed struggle unlike before.
“Wala na ang suporta ng masa sa amin (The masses no longer support us),” he said.
Another ex-senior NPA leader is Eddie Genelsa alias “Lando Pahak,” “Brad,” and “Jimbo,” a former political consultant of the NDF and vice commanding officer of the Regional Operations Committee (ROC), SMRC.
He joined in the revolutionary movement due to poverty in January 1979 where he held various positions in the CPP-NPA leadership. In 2016, he was arrested by the police and two months later, he was freed to join the peace talks in the Netherlands and Norway as an NDF consultant. In Feb. 2017, he went back to the mountains after the peace talks failed to advance. After 41 years, he finally decided to go down the mountains and surrender to the military in December 2020 to reunite with his family.
“Gusto kong magbagong buhay na kasi nakita ko naman ang malaking kaibahan sa gobyerno ngayon (I want to change my life because I have witnessed the big improvement in the present government),” Genelsa said.
Other ex-leaders were Joy James Saguino alias “Amihan,” deputy secretary of NPA Guerilla Front 20; Kurt Russel Sosa alias “Ugnay,” secretary of Guerilla Front 34 and GF 3; Daniel Castillo alias “Ka Steven,” political instructor of GF 55, and her mother Paulette Castillo alias “Ella,” regional coordinator of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP); Roberto Rosete Jr. alias “Bobby,” commanding officer of the Pulang Bagani Command (PBC); Pedro Arnado alias “Benoy,” regional chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); Ivan Cael alias “Mackoy,” secretary of SRC3, SMRC; Noel Legazpi, deputy secretary of the NPA Far South Mindanao Region (FSMR); and Rorilyn Bay-ao, an indigenous people (IP) and leader of bakwit school Haran.
Almerol said the government sees the “complete” downfall of the CPP-NPA-NDF and the end of the country’s 52-year-old communist insurgency problem –the longest in Asia– before the end of President Duterte’s term in June 2022.
“Wala na talaga, kaunti na lang. Mga finishing touches na lang ito na ma-address natin sa BDP (Their strength is really dwindling. We only need to do some finishing touches which would be addressed by the BDP),” Almerol said, referring to the Barangay Development Program, the flagship project of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
This was echoed by Major Gen. Ernesto Torres Jr., commander of the 10th Infantry “Agila” Division (10ID), one of the two operating units under EastMinCom, who said the total collapse of the CPP-NPA-NDF will happen in “just a matter of time.”
“I think it’s just a matter of time and we hope that it would be soon, sooner rather than later. That is how it looks like in the area of Agila Division and I would suppose it is also happening throughout the Philippines,” he said.
According to Torres, their data would speak for itself how the 10ID has been faring in its anti-communist campaign from 2016 to 2021.
He said there are now only six active guerilla fronts compared to 17 GFs in 2016. Of the six active GFs, three are already “weakened” — the GF 18, GF 2, and GF 3 while the other three are the subject of intense combat operations.
The NPA also have fewer firearms and manpower, according to Torres. In 2016, Torres said the NPA had 1,150 guns but now they only have 300 while their manpower decreased from 900 to 270 in a span of five years.
He said the most significant indicator that the CPP-NPA-NDF have been weakened was the number of the communist-affected barangays which went down to 12 in 2021 from 193 in 2016.
“We hope and pray that the next president come June 30 next year will also have the same passion and same campaign plan so we can really, if not sustain, finally put an end to this insurgency,” Torres said.