Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Demise of the Communist Insurgency in the Bicol Region

Recovered armaments after an encounter with communist terrorists in Mabanate, Pilar Sorsogon on 25 Sept 2009.

Major Harold M Cabunoc showing the recovered PTC cards to residents of Caramoran town in Catanduanes where a clash with NPA extortionists transpired prior to the May 2010 elections.

9ID soldiers helping in the clean up drive in Puting Sapa Elementary School which was hit by ash fall in the first week of November 2010.

An Army female officer reading a story to the pupils of Hinipaan Elementary School in Camarines Norte where the Inquirer Read Along was held.

Philippine Army soldiers and civilian participants during the Isarog watershed tree planting activity.

Recovered CPP-NPA paraphernalia after an encounter with communist terrorists in Mabanate, Pilar Sorsogon on 25 Sept 2009.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda and MGen Ruperto Pabustan during the visit of the former in Hqs 9ID.

Soldiers and civilian friends singing Christmas carols for the captured NPA rebel, Elmer Escobido aka Ka Alvin, in Sorsogon.

MGen Ruperto Pabustan and former DND Secretary Norberto Gonzales witnessed the surrender of firearms from partisan armed groups in Masbate on 27 April 2010.

PILI, Camarines Sur – The Philippine Army claims that the insurgency in the Bicol Region is seeing its natural death, a military report says .

In it’s year-ender report released to the media, Major General Ruperto Pabustan, Commander of the 9th Infantry Division based here said that records in his office show that the number of the CPP-NPA’s members have been drastically reduced for the past two years.

“From its top strength of about 520 members in January 2009, we have reduced their number by 242 thereby dwindling their strength to its lowest number of 278 regular fighters as of today.

This significant reduction of enemy personalities is recapitulated as follows: 49 killed, 125 surrendered, 25 captured, 39 apprehended and 4 arrested,” declared Pabustan.

The series of encounters and the tip-offs about the location of the rebels’ arms storage areas, resulted to the confiscation of 103 firearms. In July, captive rebels who surrendered during an encounter led the troops to a large arms hoard in Lupi town in Camarines Sur.

Due to their dwindling combat power, red rebels are forced to use Cebu-made low-powered firearms such as localized versions of 9mm Ingram Submachine Pistols and Cal .38 revolvers.

Pabustan also said that 3 ranking NPA leaders were among those killed including Elmer Osila and Eleuterio Mangampo both Front Committee commanders adding that, “these NPA leaders were spotted roaming the hinterland with less than 10 followers, indicating their problems on recruiting new members”.

The newly-installed commander of the Front Committee 79, Jason Brul, 34, who was captured in the latest clash with government troops early this month, have intended to go back to the mainstream society.

Military authorities here have claimed that the ‘precision strikes’ against the armed rebels were attributed to the growing number of tipsters among the civilian residents.

It was also reported that most local folks have secretly opposed the imposition of the rebels’ main source of income, their extortion activities.

Marketed as “revolutionary tax”, ordinary farmers and small-time entrepreneurs were not spared from these forcible collection of extortion money by the rebels in the countryside.

The effective information dissemination, dialogues and security operations by the Army forces, extortion collection was down to P14-Million this year as compared to whooping P19-Million last year, as indicated by the documents confiscated from the bandits.

Meanwhile, the collection of the permit-to-campaign fees from local politicians was down to P12.5-Million from its previous collection which neared P15-Million both during 2004 and 2007 elections.

During the 2010 national elections, Army forces in the Bicol Region confiscated the color-coded PTC cards being distributed by red rebels in the countryside.

One politician who ran for a congressional seat in Catanduanes allegedly paid P2.5-Million to the rebels. A local tipster led the troops to the location of the NPA extortionists who attempted to collect PTC fees prior to the elections, resulting to a bloody clash and the recovery of vital evidences pinpointing to the massive extortion activities by the rebels.

Gradually earning the support from the civilian population, the Philippine Army launched various peace and development programs in coordination with the local government and with the support of NGOs.

Using the campaign strategy of “winning the peace” by assuming the support role in nation-building efforts of the national government, Pabustan claimed that his soldiers have prioritized the implementation of various infrastructure projects employing the Army engineers and with the consultation from various stakeholders in the communities.

Dubbed as the Kalayaan sa Barangay Program projects, these include the construction of school buildings, electrification systems, water systems and farm to market roads (FMR).

In CY 2010, the Army’s 51st Engineering Brigade completed P175-Million worth KBP projects including 28 school buildings, 31 water systems, 20 health centers and 41 farm-to-market roads which were all implemented in the rebel-influenced villages in Camarines Sur.

Believing that the implementation of various infrastructure projects can alleviate the economic suffering of the people, soldiers intensified its security operations to flush out NPA extortionists who threatened to derail various development projects around Bicol region. Five soldiers including an officer and 2 militiamen lost their lives while protecting such projects this year alone.

These important development projects include the road pavement leading to the tourist spots in Caramoan peninsula, the hydroelectric plant in Catanduanes and the diversion road leading to the rising international airport in Daraga town in Albay.

Governor Joey Salceda of Albay, in a statement released to the media, said that, “the semblance of no-conflict and peace are the reasons of the fast economic growth of the region despite of the fact that all other factors remains the same as in the past”.

In a similar note, Governor L-Ray Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said that the “successful security operations launched by the Army soldiers are directly attributed to the growing number of foreign and local tourists who flock to the region every year”.

For the past two years (2009-2010), soldiers were also trained properly on civil-military operations and on human rights protection.

“We have definitely won the hearts and minds of the people due to our much improved human rights record. We have ensured that non-combatants were not caught in the crossfire and those who surrendered during clashes were protected from harm as exemplified by my soldiers’ actions in Sorsogon and in Camsur encounters,” added Pabustan.

In his own statement during a media interview on December 14, Jason Brul, the captured commander of the NPA’s Front Committee 79, expressed his sincerest gratitude to the soldiers who spared his life and respected his rights.

In contrast, soldiers and paramilitary forces have fallen victims to the NPA’s unchanged policy on extra-judicial killings.

Six soldiers and eight CAFGU personnel have died due to liquidations by the NPA’s death squads known as the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU).

Forty five (45) people, mostly civilians, were killed through summary executions this year. In 2009, 52 innocent souls were also victims of the NPA terrorists killing spree, victimizing not only military personnel but the civilian population as well as their own comrades who were punished through the “Kangaroo court”.

The successful military operations conducted by the Philippine Army and the mounting support from the civilian populace and the local leaders have significantly lessened the rebel’s influence even the upland villages.

These are the factors which led to the “natural death” of Bicol’s communist insurgency.

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