By KIMBERLIE NGABIT QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Police Regional Office Cordillera (PRO-COR) and the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (NOLCOM-AFP) expects the fast elimination of communist rebels operating in the Cordillera in their Joint Campaign Plan Kapanatagan.
Police and military top brass bared the plan on May 24 during the ceremonial signing held at Camp Bado Dangwa.
According to the military, the overall objective of Kapanatagan is to isolate the revolutionary groups from their supporters, destroy the New People’s Army (NPA) and neutralize their key leaders. The police and military plans to undertake these with the support from the other government agencies civil society, academe and religious groups.
Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat said the joint undertaking is designed to enhance the “interoperability” of state forces in “dismantling of guerilla fronts” and “disconnect” rebel support from the urban areas.
He also explained that it aims to transition the operation against the rebels towards the police having more role so the military on territorial defense against outside threats.
Salamat said the regional blueprint to combat the CPP-NPA shows their seriousness to support Executive Order 70 of the president. The directive institutionalize the “whole of a nation approach” mandates the military, police and civilian agencies work closely with each other against the communist rebels.
He disclosed that due to the “unique situation in CAR” and “complexity of the geographic region”, he reconfigured forces under the regional taskforces so troops can focus on the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley.
Based on AFP’s prepared matrix, the NPA is less active in Kalinga and Cagayan. Conflict with the rebels is manageable in Abra, Ifugao, Isabela and Ilocos Sur. The rebels in the provinces of Apayao, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizacaya and Pangasinan are under the suppressed or dormant category. While Ilocos Norte, Benguet, Batanes and La Union remained stable or unaffected by communist rebels.
In particular, 5th ID commander Maj. Gen. Pablo Lorenzo said his troops are now focused on wiping the rebels in Ifugao.
“This convergence that we are seeing in Ifugao is very instrumental in severely degrading Kilusan Larangang Gerilya (KLG) Ifugao and we have set a timeline for this for its eventual dismantling by the end of third quarter this year,” he claimed.
According to him, the sustained focused military operations and community support program turned Tinoc and Asipulo towns in Ifugao and Ambaguio and Villaverde in Nueva Vizcaya “unsustainable” for the rebels.
The official said that based on reports from the ground, only 17 NPA fighters are left operating in 11 barangays.
Last March, the 54th IB, a unit under the Division, and PNP conducted an aerial reconnaissance in the border area frequented and used as campsites by the NPA where they dropped information materials on the government’s amnesty program.
Lorenzo urged their PNP counterpart detailed in the province to assist in the operation so military to move bulk of their operations in the provinces of Kalinga, Mountain Province and Northern Apayao areas before the year ends.
Shift to combat mode
“This joint campaign shall guide the AFP-PNP in CAR in the performance of our mandated task fast track clearing of guerilla fronts in this region,” explained Brig. Gen. Lenard T. Agustin, 7th ID commanding officer.
“With the election mode over, we have switch back to combat mode we expect the same from you,” he said, directing the words to the PNP.
According to him the recently concluded elections showed the “strong partnership and the convergence” of the police and military.
While the plan requires the joint action of the two institutions, Agustin pointed out that “function must be clearly defined” in the conduct of internal security operations and other functions.
The Division’s 24th IB is operating in Abra while the 81st IB covers the Ilocos provinces and the municipalities of Tadian and Besao in Mountain Province. Both battalions are part of the 702nd Brigade under Gen. Henry Robinson, Jr.
Lorenzo said there is also the need to “recalibrate in the nonpriority areas” to find ways to destroy the support system of the rebels concentrated in the urban centers.
“I must say that we are already very proficient in operating in guerilla zones or red areas, which are located in the countryside. But we have to break the cycle of support coming from the white areas that feed into the red areas and vice versa,” he said.
He believes that countering the white area support and funding for the CPP-NPA is more pronounced under the Duterte administration.
The government is engaging the international community, including the United Nations in the hope of cutting the financial support from “groups that are sympathetic or connected to the local communist movement.”
However, Lorenzo admitted that they have yet to find evidence that “can stand in court” on the link between the CPP-NPA and the organizations they are accusing as communist fronts.
“We have a lot of reports but have to be converted into evidences for the filing of cases or other approaches within the bound of the law,” he said.
They are also seeking cooperation of the different legal institutions and offices to enhance the campaign to delegitimize the activities of the revolutionary movement. # nordis.net