Insurgency remains the major threat to peace, security and economic development in Eastern Visayas, a July 2020 insurgency situation report by the Philippine military said.
As the region remains stiffly engaged at the warfronts of COVID-19 that has significantly endangered public health and the economy, communist insurgency remains the major threat jeopardizing peace and order in the Eastern Visayas provinces.
In the health and economic front, once again, a surge of “imported” confirmed cases are now nearing a thousand.
The task force created to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) reported that local insurgents, identified to be led by the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), continued to wield control over 162 barangays in the region.
The number of barangays reportedly controlled by rebels is less than four percent of the total 4,390 barangays in the region.
It is the overarching and rippling influence impressed by the dissidents on unsuspecting and vulnerable residents of remote barangays that could critically put the community in danger, notwithstanding the terror posed.
The figure reported, however, shows a significant decline by 16 percent as indicated in the authority’s Periodic Situation Report for Threat Groups last year.
In 2019, the CPP-NPA wielded control over 178 barangays. The report showed an accounted number of local rebels at 455, possessing 381 firearms.
As if to make their presence felt, early this month, the CPP-NPA rebels, tagged by the government as terrorists, sniped two soldiers on board separate motorcycles.
One of the soldiers was brutally killed and burned. The other one was left wounded.
Sowing Terror Amid Pandemic
The task force, in its report, claimed that the atrocities committed by the communist terrorists swelled during the months of April, May, June, and July, when the region was reeling to control the surge of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus threat has not stopped the CPP-NPA rebels from slowing down in sowing terror.
There were reports of killings, abduction of former comrades who have surrendered, extortion of relief goods, and of planting landmines.
In the last four months, the series of rebel attacks and terroristic activities in Samar was taken to challenge the strong military presence in the region.
Optimizing Info Drive
Philippine Information Agency (PIA-8) Regional Director Olive Tiu admitted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic “RTF-ELCAC campaign was minimized.”
A consortium of the government’s line agencies, which were at the forefront of the propaganda war led by PIA-8, spearheaded a series of media engagements to help in informing the public of the insurgency situation in specific areas.
Meanwhile, the Philippine News Agency reported that the revolutionary movement in the region has already weakened.
NPA’s decline in manpower and strength began shortly after the local task forces on ending local communist armed conflict was created and implemented in 2019.
Maj. Gen. Pio Diñoso III, commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division in the Visayas, as quoted by PNA, said “the fight against insurgency is bearing fruits in Eastern Visayas with communities, local governments, and central government linking arms to end the decades-long armed rebellion.”
Last week, the National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency (NICA-8), headed in the region by Director Eustacio Bacabac, initiated the first of a series of media activities.
Tiu said more interactions would be held more frequently to keep media practitioners informed and updated on rebel movement and actions in Eastern Visayas.
The NICA-led media meetings were to revitalize, strengthen and enhance the information campaign of the regional task force to end communist activities.
Tiu, in her frequent address before the local media in the region, reiterated this is the government’s bid to partner with the local media on this specific information dissemination campaign.
Tiu, however, did not specify the intended terms of partnership PIA-8 and NICA would offer local media practitioners and their networks.
Presently, the information agency maintains a block time program with radio DYVL but the arrangement was not made known to other media agencies or if PIA-8 would also commission print space and airtime with the rest.
The NICA-led umbrella organization for the campaign included Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management cluster also lead by Bacabac,
Atty. Erwin Maraya of the Legal Cooperation Cluster, and the Strategic Communication Cluster headed by Tiu.
(With reports from Resty Cayubit)