Esperon sees police leading counterinsurgency if NPA numbers fall by 1,500 fighters
By Frances Mangosing / Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA – The police could take the lead role in dealing with communist insurgency once New People’s Army (NPA) strength has declined by 1,500 fighters, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Monday (May 31).
There are still currently 4,000 regular NPA members, according to Esperon, who is also vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Philippine government officials continue to consider communist insurgency as the country’s top security concern with the military at the forefront of counterinsurgency operations.
NPA is the armed wing of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“Personally, this is just personal, if we could reduce the strength by another 1,500 then they can become a concern for the police, like they are already bandits,” Esperson said at an online press briefing.
While police and military have reported the surrender of thousands of fighters and supporters of CPP-NPA since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, Esperon said rebels continued to be active in recruitment.
He said recruitment by members of NPA and underground communist groups continues among farmers, fishermen, workers and “very especially students.”
“So there’s resupply,” Esperon said. “Many people continue to be deceived of the promises of this long-running insurgency that seems to have no ending at all,” he said.
Esperon said he believed that if groups serving as guerrilla fronts would also denounce the rebels’ violence, the downfall of insurgents would come next.
He said if leftist members of Congress, like those in the Makabayan bloc, “or these legal fronts” will start denouncing the violence of communist rebels in the Philippines, insurgents “would eventually follow what is normal in Europe.”
“Like for example, if you are a member of the communist parties of one of the countries of Europe, you do not go into armed revolution, you stand in Congress and debate with the other parties but never, never go towards armed struggle or armed revolution,” Esperon said.