4 NPAs killed in Agusan Sur skirmishes

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 16 July) – Government troops killed four members of the New People’s Army following a series of skirmishes in Agusan del Sur over the weekend.

Col. Allan Hambala, commander of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade, said their troops caught the rebels foraging for food in Barangay Brook, Bunawan town in Agusan del Sur.

Hambala said the first clash occurred last Saturday and followed by another skirmish last Sunday.

He said they recovered four assault rifles (AK47 and M16) and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the rebels.

Hambala said there were no casualties on their side.

He credited the success of their operations to the program dubbed Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) that was designed to isolate the rebels from tribal communities.

“Without the efforts of the residents themselves in giving us timely and accurate information, we would not have pinpointed the exact location of the rebels,” Hambala said.

He said it was the villagers who tipped soldiers of the rebels’ location.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana introduced ECLIP, the new counter-insurgency program to replace the old campaign strategies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The new campaign aims to isolate the rebels from the communities by enticing their sympathizers or their mass base to surrender or go back to the fold of government.

ECLIP centralized all government agencies to provide benefits for “the reintegration of the tribal communities.”

It offers cash benefits ranging from P25,000 to P80,000 implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or agencies like PhilHealth.

Col. Eugene Osias, of the AFP Eastern Command, said a total of 2,699 NPA supporters have already availed the program and have disavowed the rebels since January this year.

Osias said because of this, the rebels lost several of their sanctuaries or villages who were sympathetic to them.

“Their guerilla forces have lost the initiative in the battlefield,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Nemesio Gacal, chief of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the target of the program are the mass bases of the NPA that have provided them support for a long time.

“The NPA can replace their armed regulars anytime but their mass supporters are irreplaceable,” he pointed out.

The New People’s Army in Mindanao has the military’s claims.

Dereka Magtanggol, spokesperson of the NPA in North Central Mindanao, said Lorenzana’s and the military’s claims that 11,000 NPA rebels have surrendered are a farce.

Magtanggol said those who surrendered are actually civilians forced by the AFP without evidence to present themselves as “rebels” and to “surrender” under pain of constant harassment and threat

“We have documented cases of military forcing residents to surrender in Bukidnon and Davao Oriental, “ Magtanggol said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)