The Army Third Division’s termination order for Brigadier General Innocencio Pasaporte mentioned among others the figure 17,129 that referred to the number of combat operations initiated by the 303rd Infantry Brigade since he took command in 2019.
Those combat operations resulted to 76 encounters, a conversion rate of not even one percent.
Those encounters, however, have led to a total of 53 rebels killed, among them top ranking cadres Kerima Tariman, Ericson Acosta, and Romeo Nanta.
Tariman was slain on 20 August 2021 in the mountain village of Kapitan Ramon in Silay City in a gunfight between guerrillas of the New People’s Army and soldiers of the 79th Battalion.
The military said Tariman was sent to the island to lead the rebuilding of the Northern Negros Front, the rebel unit the Army declared as “dismantled”
More than a year later, on 11 October 2022, the Army confirmed the death of Nanta, regional commander of the NPA, whose body was found beside a sugarcane field in Carabalan village, Himamaylan City. He was reportedly left behind by his fleeing comrades after a skirmish with soldiers of the 94th Battalion on 10 October 2022.
He was the first regional NPA commander who died on the battlefield.
The following month, 30 November 2022, Acosta was found dead after what was reported as a gunfight with troopers of the 94th and 47th Battalions in the uplands of Kabankalan, a neighboring city of Himamaylan.
The military claimed he was deputy secretary of the four-region Komiteng Rehiyonal leadership committee for Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor islands.
The CPP and human rights groups have accused the Army of executing the three ranking leaders and have described the couple – Acosta and Tariman – as “poets” and “researchers,” claims that military officials and former Communists, like Jeffrey Celiz, laughed off.
FLASHBACK TO THE 90s
Now Army third Division chief, Major General Benedict Arevalo, who commanded the 303rd before Pasaporte, arrived in Negros in the 1990s as a lieutenant and headed the intelligence platoon and, later, the civil military operations unit of the 66th Battalion then headed by the late General Carlos Clet.
The 66th, now deployed to Davao del Sur, was then headquartered in the seaside village of McKinley in Guihulngan, a city more than 100 kilometers north of Bacolod, the highly-urbanized capital city of the province known as the sugar capital of Philippines.
Guihulngan, then a town in the late 1990s, was both the locus and springboard for the rebuilding efforts of the Communist Party of the Philippines that suffered a major blow when most of the fighters of the New People’s Army bolted the armed group to join the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA), then a newly-formed military wing of the Rebolusyunaryong Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (RPMP), then called in the 90scas the “Rejectionists” or the RJs.
The RJs, also called the Stalinists or the “insurrectionists,” bolted the CPP to form a splittist group against the “Reaffirmists” or RA, which claimed to be the mainstream headed by Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison.
Samson is a former chief of the Civil Relations Service of the Armed Forces
KABUKIRAN UKON KASYUDARAN?
The late 1990s was a pivotal point for the insurgency in the island and Guihulngan was at its center.
As Arevalo held fort in their seaside headquarters, Fernandez based himself deep in the jungles of Guihulngan where he and the Probisyunal Komiteng Tagpatuman (Provisional Executive Committee) tried to patch together an organization left in shambles by the defection of NPA fighters to the RPA.
The CPP, in the late 1990s, was on its Kahublagan Panadlong officially known in Party documents as the Second Great Rectification Movement.
The Panadlong was the second one, the first one was in the 1960s when Jose Maria Sison
Fernandez, a former priest was known then in the countryside or the CS as Kanor or Ibay, and was redeployed to his home island after the CPP Central Committee assigned him to head the operations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Manila.
It was a summer when Fernandez arrived in the island with his wife, Cleofe Lagtapon alias Ka Gia, and Ka Milan, a former operative of the Alex Boncayao Brigade who acted as a security escort of Kanor.
A former cadre assigned to the communication staff of Fernandez told this writer that Fernandez was brought to Guihulngan on an old car, “a white Isuzu sedan,” from a sugar plantation in Murcia town.
“He came out from a sugarcane field and they hugged briefly, perhaps after not seeing each other for a long time,” Isay (not her real name) said in a mix of Bisaya and Hiligaynon about the meeting between the priests and Fernandez who had served under the Bacolod Diocese headed in the 1970s by Antonio Fortich, the bishop who had been repeatedly accused by government of supporting the rebels.