MANILA— With January’s record number of surrendering New People’s Army (NPA) members at 326, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed confidence it would be able to meet the target of neutralizing the communist rebels soon.
“Ayaw nating sabihin na imminent but we’re confident that we will be able to hit our target kung ang ating titingnan ay itong trend na ito, kasi ganyan na karaming (surrenders) January lang, magandang indicator to say the least,” AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said Sunday.
Earlier, the AFP vowed to reduce NPA’s strength nationwide by half, if not totally by this year.
“Mahirap tayong magsalita ng conclusive lalo’t lalo na January pa lang naman ngayon, that’s why very carefully sinasabi natin if this trend is going to continue we are confident that we will be able to hit our target,” Arevalo said.
From Jan. 1 to 29, military records revealed that 310 NPAs surrendered from various parts of the country while the remaining 16 voluntarily gave themselves up from Jan. 30 to 31.
“The unprecedented number of surrenders is attributed to the call of President and AFP Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Duterte on the rebels, as well as the hardship and sense of betrayal experienced by the returnees in staying with the NPA,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said.
One of the notable surrenderees is Gemma Quiroga, 35, of Davao Oriental who surrendered to the 28th Infantry Battalion last Jan. 27.
Garcia said the former was a squad medic of the NPAs operating in Davao Oriental and was also designated as ANAKPAWIS chair, a known leftist organization, in Mati City.
“The AFP leadership congratulates its various units on the ground for the effective use of military pressure against the NPAs, as well as in their humane treatment of the former rebels,” he added.
Garcia is hoping the recent surrenders will encourage other rebels to lay down their arms, abandon violent extremism and embrace the peaceful path towards.