By Priam Nepomuceno

AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar

MANILA – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is suffering from a breakdown in communication between its units due to the neutralization of its ranking leaders as it struggles to “gasp for breath”, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Monday.

In a statement, Col. Medel Agular said the death of CPP’s chair Jose Maria Sison in the Netherlands has also left the underground movement, which observes its 54th founding anniversary Dec. 26, with “no sense of purpose and direction”.

“There is a breakdown in the communication lines between the CPP Central Committee and its subordinate organs and armed group (NPA). This is primarily due to the neutralization of many of the CPP top leaders: Julius Giron; Menandro Villanueva; Jorge Madlos; etc, the silence and long absence of their supposed Chairman now, Benito Tiamzon, and the loss of their mass bases and mass organizations,” Aguilar said.

The CPP is left with only 23 guerrilla fronts, only five of which are able to implement party programs and the 18 are “weak and gasping for breath”, Aguilar said.

“This gives the military the opportunity to focus its superior capability against the five while the civil government needs only to implement programs that will address the source of peoples’ discontent to render the UGM’s AOM (agitate, organize and mobilize) activities inutile,” he said.

Sison, who died last Dec. 16, established the CPP in 1968.

“To keep the organization afloat, the CPP through a digital person known as ‘Marco Valbuena’ can only come up with press releases and statements to convey the party’s directive and message to its lower organs and armed group, including its threat of tactical offensives,” Aguilar said.

Following Sison’s death, the CPP said it would not seek a ceasefire with state forces this holiday season.

The CPP’s call to its remaining New People’s Army (NPA) fighters to carry out “tactical offensives” against government troops, Aguilar said, was aimed at preventing the organization’s “total disintegration”.

“The CPP is now more likely to strengthen its hold to what remains of its fighters and followers, hence the directive to conduct tactical offensives, in order to avoid disintegration and collapse,” he added.

Even after more than 50 years, the CPP has failed to achieve its goals despite peaking with an estimated 28,000 members in the mid-80s, Aguilar said.

“Indeed, 54 years is more than enough. The country’s suffering must end now,” he said adding “54 years after it was founded, the underground movement never achieved anything significant to get closer to its goal, violent overthrow of the government, seizure of political power, and overhaul of the political system.”

“As the UGM struggled to establish a guerrilla front in every congressional district of the country, its leaders and members can only watch with frustration and helplessness as the government’s security operations and development programs decapitates them,” Aguilar said.

Dwindling NPA membership

Members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s armed wing, are down to 2,112 as a result of the military’s campaign and the whole-of-nation approach of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said.

Its guerilla fronts were also reduced to 22 from 89 six years ago, significantly lower than the over 4,000 NPA members reported in 2016.

“Seventeen of these were already classified as weakened while the remaining five guerilla fronts are now the focus of relentless focused military operations and synergized efforts employing the whole-of-nation approach,” Baclor said in a media statement.

NPA leaders were also neutralized, including Helenita Pardales, Secretary of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee; Ericson Acosta, top NPA leader of Komite Rehiyon – Cebu-Bohol, Negros, Siquijor; Rogelio Sapon Gerondio Jr., Secretary of the Sub-Regional Committee 3 in Agusan del Norte; and Gina Belsa Granada, Secretary of the defunct Guerilla Front BBC in Zamboanga del Norte.

The NPA’s income generation through extortion activities also went down.

“From as high as PHP4.2 billion in 2017, they were only able to extort PHP8.5 million in 2022. Schemes to raise funds through so-called international solidarity works were also stopped in coordination with legitimate foreign advocacy financers,” Baclor said.

For 2022, 156 cases of human rights and international humanitarian law violations have been filed against NPA personalities, bringing the total to 1,886 since the year 2010.

“The number summarizes the CTG’s continued use of children in armed conflict, destruction of civilian properties, use of anti-personnel mines, willful killings, and other HR abuses,” Baclor said. (PNA)