Editors Note: The Division Reconnaissance Company appears like a response to the Regional Strike Force of the Communist New People’s Army. In fact, it is one of the key features of the Army’s combat operations against the Maoist insurgency, which the CPP boasts to be the longest-running one in the world.
Since President Duterte created the National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and adopted a whole-of-nation approach that included bringing projects to underdeveloped areas that also includes the Barangay Development Program (BDP) based on the Armed Forces’ Community Support Program (CSP), accounts, at least from the military, show increasing battlefield losses on the side of the rebels, an increase in development projects, particularly roads in far-flung areas, and an increasing number of rebels giving up to authorities.
Part 1 of 2
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The after-battle report from Camp Gerona yesterday, 7 July 2022, reads in part: “Four (4) Members of the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs) who were killed in the encounter against the 94th Infantry Battalion, 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company and Neg. Oc. Police Mobile Force Company at 9:30 a.m. in Sitio Amilis, Barangay Santol town of Binalbagan, Negros Occidetal have been identified.”
Second Lieutenant Mary Joy De Guzman’s report on 3 November 2021 reads in part: ” In response to the information from the residents of Brgy Quintin Remo in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental the joint effort of the 62nd Infantry “Unifier” Battalion, 79 Infantry “Masaligan” Battalion, and 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company encountered simultaneously more or less 25 Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) at Sitio Tiyos, Brgy Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental… “
On 23 March 2021, the 62nd Infantry Battalion sent a dispatch from Guihulngan City, Oriental Negros.
It reads in part:” The troops of 62nd Infantry (Unifier) Battalion, 33rd Division Reconnaisance Company (33DRC) and 16th Scout Ranger Company (16SRC) simultaneously encountered more or less 40 members of Leonardo Panaligan Command (LPC), New People’s Army (NPA), Central Negros 1 (CN1) under Komiteng Rehiyon – Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor (KR-NCBS) in Sitio Agit, Barangay Trinidad, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, at 12:55 pm of March 23, 2021.”
The three incidents above are only part of the Army’s engagements with Communist rebel in Negros, this year and last year, all of which led to the death of 14 suspected rebels.
In all these incidents, one unit was constant: the 33rd DRC or 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company.
What is the DRC? What makes it a threat to the New People’s Army, once a tested and battle-scarred guerrilla force in the country that had considerable military successes in Negros island?
In this two-part series, DNX Defense looks into the recent battlefield losses of the NPA in Negros island based on incidents reported by various Army units since last year, the military units involved and what lessons these could offer for those interested in resolving what is seen as either a simple insurgency problem or an internal conflict with far-reaching social roots that has continued to simmer for half a century in this island.
The turn of the century seemed to bode well for the Communist Party of the Philippines faction under Jose Maria Sison.
Eight years after the CPP-Joma wing sent former priest Frank Fernandez to Negros to head its operations in the island where it once held sway, the NPA scored big against the Army.
On 20 August 2000, rebels ambushed and killed 17 soldiers in the upland village of Bulod in Carabalan, a community in Himamaylan City.
That “victory” for the rebels was praised by CPP higher organs and top NPA commands and for a time became the national record for the most number of “kaaways (enemies)” killed in one blow.
While the Communists appeared to enjoy a cordial relationship with the Duterte government in its initial months, the alliance quickly ended and with it, government forces intensified counterinsurgency operations with a new approach: combat operations, increased psy-ops, development works, and rehabilitation programs for surrenderees.
By 2017, the break between the rebels and the Duterte government seemed to have become final after the House Committee on Appointments rejected the appointments of three Cabinet members nominated by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
On 24 March 2019, the Negros Reds suffered a terrible blow when their top two leaders – Frank Fernandez and his wife, Cleofe Lagtapon – were arrested in Laguna.
Halway into Duterte’s term, the shift in the counter-insurgency campaign on the ground became more apparent with the launch of the Retooled Community Support Program and the deployment of the 33rd DRC to Negros island.
For the first time in 50 years, the Philippine military fought a war against the Maoist rebels by replicating them in almost all aspects.
Former rebels who “lay low” during the Duterte government said the CSP concept practically mimics the Armadong Yunit Pampropaganda (AYP) of the NPA.
The AYPs are small units tasked to do “politicization” work among the local populace to, in rebel speak, “AOM (Arouse, Organize, Mobilize) the masses.
The AYPs form the backbone of community organizing efforts of the NPA as they also serve as intelligence and reconnaissance elements who do “SI-CA (Social Investigation-Class Anaysis)” that will become the basis for the RBKS or Rebolusyunarong Buhis sa Kaaway nga Sahi, the so-called “revolutionary taxation” of the NPA.
“The CSP has effectively neutralized the AYP. For the first time, soldiers are going to the grassroots, asking people about their problems,” a former guerrilla who used to operate under the Northern Negros Front told this reporter in Hiligaynon.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the former guerrilla said the CSP has also made it hard for them to convince people that government has no plans of bringing development to the countryside.
(To be continued)