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Ending insurgency

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GOVERNMENT WINNING war versus NPA in Central Luzon.

So screamed a press release from the Philippine Information Agency-3 uploaded en toto in Punto! online Dec. 13, 2019, to wit:

Relentless focused military operations and continuous conduct of community support program by government instrumentalities in Central Luzon resulted in a series of encounters, recovery of various war materials and massive surrender of members and supporters of the New People’s Army…

Recovered firearms include eight M16, one M14, one Carbine, three Cal 45, two Magnum 22, one Cal 22 sub-machine gun, one Cal 38 and two homemade pistol, two Improvised Explosive Devices, one hand grenade and five detonating cords…

Also, for November, three members of NPA were killed during encounters, five were captured and number of surrenderees reached 600 regular members and supporters. Among the biggest include the 133 supporters under Malayang Aniban ng mga Magsasaka sa Manggang Marikit, Bagong Barrio at Yuson in Nueva Ecija…

In just a short period of time, we were able to accomplish more than what we expected or targeted. I am truly overwhelmed with the conquest of our operating troops on the ground conducting focused military operations who are very eager to pursue our mandate to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and we will engage, empower all sectors of society to be free and resistant to communist terrorist operations and infiltrations…

So was 703rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Andrew Costelo quoted in the press release.

Ending the communist insurgency – the “mass surrender of rebels and sympathizers” as highlighted proof – has truly become a recurrent refrain of the Philippine military especially in the days leading to Christmas.

The timing inspiring on the Right hand — in keeping with the spirit of hope, the blessing of peace the season brings. Dispiriting on the Left – the NPA losing adherents yet again closing in on the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26. Its 51st this year.

So, how many times have we heard of the government winning the war against the Reds hereabouts?

In March 2017, 7th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Angelito De Leon declared: “All of the provinces in Central Luzon are peaceful and ready for further development, a step before being declared insurgency-free.”

Earlier, in Jan. 2014, no less than AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista declared Pampanga “peaceful, insurgencyfree and ready for further development” in a memorandum of agreement he signed with Gov. Lilia G. Pineda at The Promenade, Kings Royale Hotel in the City of San Fernando.

In that same event, the AFP showed that of 11 Luzon provinces previously declared insurgency-free, three are from Central Luzon: Aurora, Nueva Ecija, and Tarlac. Which with Pampanga in 2014, and Bataan in the latest AFP statement, leaves but Zambales and Bulacan in the AFP’s red list as of the moment.

Two years hence, notwithstanding AFP’s the declaration of a large chunk of Central Luzon as insurgency-free, the war versus the Reds goes on, albeit the AFP winning it, of course.

Indeed, when did the AFP ever come to losing the war against the NPA? From the yellowed archive of columns I wrote in the long-defunct Angeles Sun, timeliness sprang in this one (8-13 Dec. 1988 issue) – exactly 31 years to the day of the PIA-3 press release that opened this piece:

The fallacy of overkill

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines may be winning the insurgency war but the bite, that walloping impact, of victory is dissipated with the amateurish handling of information dished out for public consumption.

This is indicative of an inept, if not inane and inutile, propaganda machinery. Or of the employment of propagandists steeped in the old Hitlerian institution of the Big Lie. Nowhere is this more evident than in Pampanga where the overkill syndrome has become the norm in martial propaganda.

Rebel surrenderees are a stock-in-trade in the hearts-and-minds battle in any insurgency campaign, be it in Vietnam, in Malaya, in Somoza’s Nicaragua, or here.

The packaging of information relative to the surrenderees could spell the chasm of a difference between earned propaganda value and loss of credibility. To the latter has fallen many a report of surrenders. Not for anything else but for the substance of incredulity or illogic.

For instance, there were this year successive reports of NPA “regulars” surrendering in droves in Pampanga – 50 in Lubao, 40 in Sta. Ana, 30 in San Simon, if memory serves right – over the “200 regulars” captured and “subjected to tactical interrogation for one week” by a ranking PC officer.

Against the backdrop of military pronouncement that there are less than 200 NPA regulars in Pampanga, the reports would show that the NPA in the province is operating on a deficit manpower or negative level!

Incredible too is the superhuman feat of tactical interrogation for one week of 200 NPA rebels by only one PC officer. With him alone, we wonder why there is still an insurgency war in Pampanga or in the whole country for that matter.

The slip in the surrender drama shows too in some field officers’ attempt at excellence directed toward an ultimate rise in the ranks.

During the Marcos misrule, an officer-friend was lionized in the local press for the number of “surrenderees” who took the oath of alliance to the Republic before him. The surrender rites being always on Sundays and in marketplaces sowed the seeds of disbelief that subsequently uncovered the sham of surrender and ultimately effected this officer’s relegation to the doghouse.

He was found to have been gathering all marketgoers on Sundays, telling them of a new Philippine Republic to which every Filipino should pledge his allegiance, and then passed off the pictures to newspapers as those of NPA surrenderees.

Overkill transcends the figurative and goes to the literal in certain casualty reports in internecine encounters between the NPA and the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB).

The conclusion of 20 dead in a recent encounter between the two, without any body retrieved or accounted for is plainly fictitious. Especially when the speculated number of combatants did not go beyond two scores and the firefight lasting for a mere ten minutes (that would be two killed per minute).

The above data culled from a single military report evidenced the contradictory and illogical presentation of facts and fantasies that have become indistinguishable in many a military mind.

That the NPA has greatly lost its strength in the province, owing to military victory in Maj. Sonny Gutierrez’s and Maj. Roman Lacap’s fields of battle; in Col. Efren Q. Fernandez’s barangay dialogs; and in Lt. Col. Amado Espino Jr’s “capitalist cheerers,” is not simply believable but highly probable.

It has been a long time since the last sparrow killing and field encounter. A number of NPA sympathizers do indeed return to the fold of the law. A relative peace reigns in the province. No need therefore to tilt the balance more by coming up with these ridiculous and insulting propaganda schemes. Which makes an utter fallacy of the military’s actual victory.

AND the war goes on.

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