AMID their stepped-up effort to win the “hearts and minds” of New People’s Army (NPA) members and supporters and prompt them to support the government, commandos from the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF), and the Philippine Army have dismantled two rebel camps in Nueva Ecija, the director of the PNP-SAF told the Journal Group on Tuesday.
According to Brigadier General Edgar Alan O. Okubo, a platoon of officers from the SAF’s 2nd Special Action Battalion (SAB) discovered the two rebel encampments in the hinterlands of Gabaldon and General Tinio municipalities while conducting a focused military operation with soldiers from the Army’s 91st Infantry Battalion (IB).
In a report to PNP Chief Gen. Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr., the official said that the NPA encampments were found to be being maintained by members of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)/NPA Kilusang Larangang Guerilla (KLG)-Sierra Madre. Each can accommodate at least 20 persons, the report added.
According to Okubo, information gathered by the 2nd SAB showed that the CPP/NPA’s KLG “Sierra Madre” and KLG “Tarzam” have already joined forces due to the dwindling strength of both guerrillas’ fronts.
“The discovery of the guerilla bases by the SAF and AFP troops disclosed that the CTG [communist terrorist group] has limited space remaining and nearing defeat and dismantling,” he explained.
Okubo said he intends to completely “defeat” the rebel group in Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley areas by implementing the “Revitalized-Pulis Sa Barangay” (R-PSB) program of the PNP headed by Azurin Jr.
The R-PSB’s mission is to sustain the gains of the Community Support Program (CSP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP as well as local government units (LGUs), prevent the resurgence of the rebel movement, and insulate the unaffected communities from recovery efforts of the armed group.
He added that the R-PSB shall further connect the so-called “Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas” or GIDAS barangays to the services of the LGUs, non-government agencies, and other stakeholders to eliminate the continuing issues of the CTG against the government.
The R-PSB concept in Southern Mindanao has been credited to be a major factor in the collapse and defeat of the NPA insurgency in the region, the Journal Group learned.
Thus, Okubo has committed to deploying two companies from every SAF battalion to fully implement the R-PSB program in their areas of assignment.
The member of PNP Academy (PNPA) Class 1992 reported to Azurin that he would create and train one SAF Intelligence Battalion that would cater to the intelligence requirement of their regular battalions to further enhance their missions and operational accomplishments.
At present, the PNP-SAF has 14 regular battalions complemented by a Rapid Deployment Battalion and a Force Support Battalion.
Last August 11, National Security Adviser Clarita R. Carlos and Department of National Defense (DND) Officer-in-Charge, Senior Undersecretary Jose C. Faustino Jr. were given a briefing by Okubo relative to the R-PSB concept at the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City.
The NSA requested the briefing as she wanted to know how the R-PSB program helped in the collapse and defeat of the insurgency in the Davao region. After the briefing, Carlos said she wanted the R-PSB program replicated in the archipelago.
She also called on the PNP leadership headed by Azurin to be prepared to present their R-PSB program to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.
Carlos lauded the concept of the R-PSB to provide government service to people leaving in GIDAS knowing well that their conditions are being taken advantage of by the NPA to recruit more members and supporters.
The NSA expressed belief that to defeat the insurgency, “those in the margin should be moved in the center” in reference to the effort by the government to reach the marginalized sectors.
Carlos noted that the R-PSB program of the Police Regional Office 11 (PRO11) has successfully convinced thousands of NPA members, supporters, and sympathizers to “denounce” the rebel movement and, thus, must be replicated by the PNP nationwide.
“I would like the R-PSB mission to infect, be replicated in the entire archipelago, exactly what Sec. Boy Faustino wants for the AFP to really do their mandate, which is territorial defense and external defense because this is your mandate at the PNP,” she said.
The PNP chief said that in partnership with AFP and various clusters of Executive Order No. 70 NTF ELCAC – or the “National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict”, the PNP shall continue this endeavor with more vigor and enthusiasm and shall ensure that all barangay development programs shall reach its completion, by providing security to its implementers.
Since 2019, around 17,000 indigenous people and other poor folk living in so-called GIDAS in Southern Mindanao are now qualified to avail of different government services, thanks to the birth certificates they have finally acquired thru the help of the R-PSB program of the PRO11, said Okubo, a former PRO11 Deputy Regional Director for Administration.
The PRO11 R-PSB since 2019, has enjoyed the full support of local residents as its personnel has helped construct roads, school buildings, artesian projects, and water systems for local tribesmen and other poor folk in the region.
The R-PSB personnel also facilitated the mass wedding of dozens of local tribesmen who were previously vulnerable to NPA recruitment, their areas formerly known as “insurgent mass base” since the local folk have difficulty in obtaining basic documents such as birth and marriage certificates.
“In short, the R-PSB personnel have become the true representative of the government in those GIDAS areas. They are there to assist the poor communities,” he said.
The Journal Group learned that thousands of poor Southern Mindanao residents have been living without proof of their identities and nationality for years. This problem has been taken advantage of by rebels.
However, with the help of members of the R-PSB conceptualized by former PRO11 director, now Area Police Command-Visayas deputy director, Major Gen. Filmore B. Escobal, these poor folks have received their birth certificates since 2019, and the processing of their documentation papers facilitated by the local police.