Editors Note: It is impossible to fully understand the Communist rebellion in Negros island without two things: one, being a Negrense, and two, being involved at some point with the Communist movement either as a Party member, a Red fighter, or a sympathizer.
The writer is both – a native of Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental, the sugar bowl of the Philippines, and had been one of those who extensively covered the rebels in the 1990s. He was frequently invited to interview them in the countrysides and was one of the few reporters in the island who was selected in 1995 by the Communist Party of the Philippines to cover the defection of Raymundo Jarque, an Army general, who went underground. Many years later. He also covered the defection of former police officer Joel Geollegue.
He was also one of three reporters in Negros, two already dead, who were the first to interview in the 1990s Frank Fernandez, the former priest who led recovery efforts of the CPP in the island.
He eventually got directly involved in activism to head the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Negros island as its secretary general in 1999, an organization the military says is a Communist front.
Most of the details in the stories of this first topic for Deep Cover are culled from the writer’s personal experiences covering the rebels, his interviews and conversations with Red fighters and Party cadres, in the past, and based on CPP documents he has read.
DNX hopes that by looking closely at the Communist rebellion in Negros island, one of the areas where they used to hold sway, Negrenses can come to terms with it and, it is hoped, become a part of seeking solutions to it.
Today, Part 1 | The yin and yang of Michael Samson: Waving the olive branch but ready to go kinetic looks at the pronouncements of Colonel Michael Samson, the newly-installed commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade that had been leading Internal Security Operations in parts of Negros and his take on local peace talks.
Also today, Part 2 | 17,129: A look at the combined arms warfare versus the Reds provides context to the more than 50-year war against local Communists and introduces the background to the rebuilding of the Communist Party in the island in the 1990s and how it has weathered the State’s counter insurgency campaign and how the Duterte government’s Whole-Of-Nation approach drastically affected its forces.
Part 1 | The yin and yang of Michael Samson: Waving the olive branch but ready to go kinetic
CAMP NELSON GERONA, Barangay Minoyan, Murcia – When Colonel Michael Samson speaks, he sounds like a professor.
Or a public relations guy.
Except that he is in battle fatigues and had just been appointed acting chief of the 303rd Brigade based here when he gave his first interview to local press as acting commander of an Army brigade, a unit of at least 5,000 rifles.
Deliberate, seemingly measured with his words, Samson now commands three “linecon” – line control units or maneuver battalions, each with at least 500 soldiers, and other Army units – that had been fighting an insurgency half a century old founded by a college professor who died recently while on self exile in The Netherlands.
As deputy commander since 2019 of his mistah, retired Brigadier General Innocencio Pasaporte, the 303rd oversaw a campaign against the Communist Party and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in Negros island that has led to significant battlefield victories including the death of the NPA’s island commander, Romeo Nanta, and national cadre Ericson Acosta who was deployed here to lead the CPP’s executive committee over four islands – Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor.
Too, that campaign has led to a series of surrenders by rebel cadres and their supporters, and the launching of a revitalized civil military campaign that has combined direct community support, delivery of development projects to the hinterlands, and an intensified propaganda campaign on air, on line and on the ground.
“Even if we don’t have a ceasefire, we invite you to be with your families during Christmas and take the opportunity to reflect about your lives,” Samson said in his speech after accepting the command from Pasaporte.
In almost the same breath, however, Samson said Negrenses or those who live in this island of more than two million people – have long repudiated armed struggle – and warned them that the Army will intensify its focused combat operations that have combined regular infantry with the Division Reconnaissance Company.
The DRC is a “Rangerized” unit made up of Scout Rangers, an elite jungle warfare branch of the Army that has increasingly seen action in tactical engagements in the island since the 33rd DRC arrived in the island in 2020.
“We will make your worst nightmare come true,” Samson said as he vowed that the 303rd, also known by its moniker “Brown Eagle” will continue to live by the motto of Third Infantry Division chief, Major General Benedict Arevalo: “Loved by the people, feared by the enemy.”
Samson assumes command facing the Communists described by Pasaporte as “severely weakened” – its fronts either “dismantled” or “weakened” due to a combination of battlefield losses, mass surrenders of its fighters and members, and the withdrawal of support by its mass bases.
The CPP in Negros claims to have five fronts, which it defines as an area where it has “Red political power” spread over five to six towns or cities equivalent to a political district of the government, and where it has at least a platoon of heavily armed regulars.
Army officials have repeatedly said the Northern Negros Front was “dismantled” in 2021 after the Southeast Negros Front in 2020.