The military yesterday said that no matter what the rebel propaganda says, the continued weakening of the New People’s Army forces in Negros Occidental, with a huge drop in its armed strength, is an irreversible trend.
As people become educated and economic development continues, it is just be a matter of time when they will soon become irrelevant, Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.
“It is different now, armed struggle is already passé”, Lactao stressed.
Military records indicate a huge drop of NPA forces in Negros from an estimated 1,200 in the late 1980s, to about 500 in year 2,000, which was further reduced to 212 in 2010.
Lactao reported yesterday that 11 more members of the New People’s Army surrendered to them, bringing to 51 the number of former rebels who had abandoned the armed struggle since May last year.
The New People’s Army Roselyn Pelle Command had earlier laughed off claims of Lactao that the NPA in northern Negros has been downgraded, saying that he may have been “dreaming” because their forces remain intact.
Rebel spokesperson Ka Cecille Estrella also claimed that those who surrendered to the military are either not NPA members, or have lain low for almost five years.
Lactao, however, disputed the rebel claims, saying that rebel returnees had been inactive for at least six months. Because of the NPA indoctrination that they will be tortured or killed if they surrender, he said the returnees had been observing and getting feedback from those who have abandoned the armed struggle, before they decided to surface.
It’s a normal reaction for NPA combatants to be cautious, before surrendering to us, Lactao added.
About 40 of the 51 rebel returnees have already availed of financial and livelihood assistance from the provincial government of Negros Occidental.
The NPA is marking its 43rd founding anniversary on March 29.
Lactao said the 11 NPA members who surrendered to them, admitted the futility of continuing the armed struggle, and said that they now want to live a normal life with their families.* GPB