Why the AFP will fail to crush the NPA in NCMR

, ,

Presidential Communications Operations Office Sec. Martin Andanar’s boast that the revolutionary movement in North Central Mindanao Region (NCMR) is near collapse is a big lie. According to him, 2,517 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have surrendered, 618 Red fighters have been “neutralized” and 10 guerilla fronts have been dismantled in 2020 alone. He further said 77 more barangays were “cleared” and are thus eligible for funds from the anomalous Barangay Development Program. Andanar is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s coordinator for Region 10.

In reality, no guerilla front or center was dismantled in NCMR in 2020. Some areas were temporarily vacated but NPA units managed to maintain presence in strategic areas of the region. There have been Red fighters who surrendered but they are few and mostly due to pressures exerted by the enemy on their families.

From March 2020 to March 2021, the people’s army launched 102 tactical offensives where 94 soliders were killed and 84 wounded. At the same time, 18 Red fighters died in battle and for other reasons.

In the midst of heavy encounters, units in there region managed to launch agrarian campaigns to increase wages for farm workers and for higher farmgate prices.

Focus region

Since March 2018, the AFP identified NCMR as one of its focus regions. After two years of failed campaigns to crush the NPA, the 4th ID reorganized its forces in 2020 to focus five brigades (three full and two shared) in what it considers to be subregional centers.

The AFP deployed one to two battalions per front. Its operations consist of soldiers occupying supposed “cleared” barrios combined with putting up a network of detachments to encroach or encircle suspected bulwarks of the people’s army. (Towards the end of 2020, the AFP had 169 CAFGU detachments and 19 regular military camps in the region.)

At the same time, focused and sustained combat operations using a thousand troops supported by jetfighters and helicopters, drones, mortars and cannons were launched. No less than 23 aerial bombing incidents using FA-50s and helicopters were reported from December 2018 to August 2020. In 2020, the AFP used the Covid-19 pandemic to intensify its rampage in the countryside and control the people’s mobility.

Countering heightened attacks

In general, NPA units in the region employed guerrilla tactics of shifting and fluid warfare to maintain initiative and flexibility in waging war.

Guerrilla forces strove to raise the politico-militar capacity of its commanders and fighters to repel enemy attacks and raise the level of warfare. They assessed and gleaned lessons from extensive encounters, as well as attacks and counterattacks between its units and the AFP.

In the midst of heightened attacks, the need for the NPA to conduct extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare became more imperative. The consolidation and expansion of guerilla base areas and zones is key. To do this, commanders and officials of the people’s army need to master waging systematic agrarian revolution and other campaigns to organize and mobilize the masses and address their needs and welfare. This became more important in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and its threat to the countryside where health infrastructure is minimal, if not absent.

The people’s army also understood the need to urgently combat the enemy’s gradual constriction and encirclement tactics by attacking its detachments and launching coordinated offensives at the front and subregional levels. This is to counter the enemy’s plan to cut mass support for its units, isolate them in interior areas and force them into a purely military situation. It is also apparent that military abuses and brutalities run rampant in barrios where there are detachments.

Towards this goal, the Party committee has ordered the army to firmly grasp the platoon’s basic orientation and operate in its set cluster of barrios. At the same time, Party units must firmly guide the masses’ armed movement and utilize this and units of the people’s militia to support regular forces and assist in launching tactical offensives.

Comrades in the region are confident that the AFP will not crush the NPA and the revolutionary movement in Duterte’s remaining year in office. They have lessons learned from decades of revolutionary struggles and intense warfare, especially in the last three years. These have produced cadres, commanders and personnel who have solid ideological grounding, rich military experience, high degree of readiness to sacrifice and face hardships and possess an unwavering fighting spirit.

Why the AFP will fail to crush the NPA in NCMR