By Alexis Romero
Publish in Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines - The military has failed to reduce the strength of the New People’s Army (NPA), contrary to its earlier claims that the communist movement has weakened.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said there are around 4,000 NPA guerrillas as of the third quarter of this year, a figure unchanged over the past four years.
Catapang attributed the figure to a new system of accounting for the rebels.
“We put in a new system. And then you don’t take in consideration the previous system, it (figure) will really fluctuate,” he said.
When asked if he thinks the military has failed to curb insurgency, Catapang said: “It’s too early to tell.”
Officials cannot explain the difference between the old and the new system of gathering data about insurgency. They instead promised to release consolidated figures on the number of NPA members by yearend.
“We have to collate the data before we release the final figures,” said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs chief.
Cabunoc said the strength of the NPA depends on several factors.
“We have criteria to assess it but I can’t describe it until it reaches my office,” he said.
As early as 2010, military officials have been claiming that the communist membership has declined to about 4,000 from a peak of 25,000 in 1987.
They attributed the decline to combat operations, internal conflict among rebels, and programs that discouraged villagers from joining the underground movement.
Cabunoc said the military is doing everything to address the country’s insurgency problem.
“We did not fail because we are performing our duty. We have seen the surrender and arrest of rebels,” he said.