By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

BOOSTING COUNTER-INSURGENCY. Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. answers questions from the media in a press briefing at the PNP headquarters on Monday (Jan. 23, 2023). Azurin said the police force continues to intensify its anti-insurgency drive as rebel forces continue to dwindle after the death of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison. (PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said it continues to beef up the anti-insurgency campaign as New People’s Army (NPA) ranks continue to crumble following the death of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.

“As of now, base sa ating mga impormasyon na nakakalap medyo nagkaroon kasi ng parang breakdown of communication among doon sa members ng CPP-NPA. So hanggang ngayon hindi pa nila malaman who will take over doon sa posisyon na naiwanan or nabakante ni Joma Sison (As of now, based on the information we have gathered, there was a bit of a breakdown of communication among the CPP-NPA members because they could not yet figure out who would replace the position vacated by Sison),” PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said in a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Sison died on Dec. 16, 2022 while in exile in The Netherlands where he had been staying for decades. He was 83.

Ranking communist leaders, couple Benito and William Tiamzon, who are purportedly next in line, were reported to have been killed in a clash with soldiers in Catbalogan City.

Meron nagsasabi ang mga Tiamzon pero missing naman so as of now is wala pang malinaw kung sino yung liderato na papalit and the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is taking advantage of the situation because we wanted na dadami pa yung unti-unti na magbabalik loob sa ating pamahalaan doon sa panawagan ng Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr. na yung unity. So this is an opportunity for the government to take advantage in the ongoing struggle who will take over the seat of power of the CPP-NPA kung meron man (Tiamzon will be taking over but Tiamzon is missing so as of now it is not clear who the leadership will be and the PNP and the AFP are taking advantage of the situation because we wanted more and more people to gradually return to our government on the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that is the unity. So this is an opportunity for the government to take advantage in the ongoing struggle who will take over the seat of power of the CPP-NPA if any),” Azurin said.

Defense and security experts said Sison’s death was a severe blow to the CPP-NPA since there are no other leaders who have his charisma.

The national government, through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, has been pursuing localized peace talks with the communist rebels.

The move reportedly led to the surrender of hundreds of CPP-NPA fighters and supporters in the past few years.

The AFP earlier said out of the 89 guerrilla fronts recorded in 2016, only 24 or 23 are left with only five remaining active or capable of conducting any actions.

Meanwhile, Azurin lauded Brig. Gen. John Guyguyon, Police Regional Office (PRO) director for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for facilitating the surrender of 30 members of the Dawlah Islamiya (DI) extremist group operating in Maguindanao.

“My heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the local government units of Maguindanao; and DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) 12, for their support and assistance to the undertakings of PRO BARMM. this accomplishment contributes greatly to the peace and order which eventually will pave the way to the development and progress in the area,” he said.

The surrenderers are composed of 30 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and two DI-listed private armed group (PPAG) members under leader Mohammad Andoy.

They turned in 33 high-powered firearms, including improvised explosive devices and hand grenades.

Among the firearms presented to the police were eight sniper rifles and two 60 mm mortar launch pads.

Guyguyon said the BIFF members under the Karialan and Bungos factions were all operating in Maguindanao del Sur, including the neighboring towns of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato.

The two DI-PPAG members were operating in Pagalungan, Maguindanao del Sur.

Guyguyon said the continued pressure faced by the BIFF members, coupled with discontentment with their leadership, compelled the extremists to return to mainstream society. (PNA)