BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – A former ranking rebel has called the Communist-terrorist New People’s Army’s focus on recovering lost bases as a “sign of weakness,” other than being a “feeble propaganda attempt” to show it is still alive and kicking.
Jeffrey Celiz, who goes by the codename Eric Almendraz made the analysis amid two successive clashes between soldiers and remnants of two dismantled rebel fronts in two towns – Santa Catalina in Negros Oriental and Calatrava in this province – this month amid the off-season in the sugar industry and increasing summer heat brought by the El Niño phenomenon, ironically at the start of the rainy season.
Celiz, a former National Operations Command staff of the New People’s Army, told DNX the recovery effort of the NPA in areas under its Southeast and Northern Negros Fronts – both reported by the Army to have been dismantled – are proof positive that the Communist Party of the Philippines is already at its weak point.
He said the CPP’s focus on recovering areas under its dismantled fronts only indicates it has no capacity for “expansion work” or “magbutas” in CPP parlance
Celiz explained this is mainly because the areas under the dismantled fronts are already suited for guerrilla warfare as these are located in boundary or multi-boundariy areas between or among towns and cities in the two provinces.
Aside from that, Celiz said it is easier for the Communists to operate in an area with an existing politico-military structure or with an already organized mass base with Party members and militia.
“Even if that organization was left behind for 20 to 30 years already, the CPP finds it easier to work in a recovered area than in a new one,” he added.
Celiz, a government star witness against the Communists starting under President Duterte’s term, said an expansion into a new area is more risky than recovering an old one since it needs experienced cadres and a substantial number of seasoned fighters.
Focused combat operations, however, over the past years as part of a Whole of Nation Approach has led to a weakened insurgent movement with no leaders after the battlefield death of Rogelio Posadas, unified regional Party secretary for Negros, Cebu, Siquijor, and Bohol islands; and Juanito Magbanua, the NPA regional commander.
Its remaining guerrilla forces, which Army officials estimate to be only a handful, are constantly on the run dodging soldiers under two Army brigades who have become the tip of the government’s counterinsurgent campaign.
Celiz said expanding into a new territory will immediately expose an armed unit in an area where the support of the masses is not certain and will make it very vulnerable to be crushed immediately by the Army that has adapted its weapons and tactics to fighting the guerrillas.
“They will be finished off quickly and decisively,” Celiz said about the NPA that he and other former rebels describe as moving closer to being a “roving rebel band” or “rebeldeng lagalag” amid a lack of ideological purpose, leaders, and combat experience