Alexander Martin Remollino writes for Bulatlat: Rebel spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal claims the New People’s Army (NPA) now has an equivalent of 27 battalions or roughly around 13, 500 regular fighters. These exclude members of barrio militia units or what Rosal describes as “peasants by  day, NPA fighters by night.”

KarogerA few weeks ago, Malacañang spokespersons were quoted in the news as aying that the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the clandestine Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), remains “the biggest  threat to national security.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) described the NPA as the country’s “No. 1 security threat” in mid-2004 – for the first time since the early 1990s.

This  is a tune that is vastly different from what the government was singing as  recently as the beginning of last year. Not too long ago the government was  dismissing the NPA as a “spent force,” an “ideological orphan” engaged in  extortion and other forms of banditry.

While the short time it took the government to make a turnaround on its earlier  assessment of the NPA’s strength can cast doubt as to the accuracy of its  statements, the NPA’s own figures appear to show that it became a stronger force  for the government to reckon with in 2005.

Last  year was a crucial year in the growth of the NPA forces, if we go by the Dec.  26, 2004 statement of CPP Central Committee chairman Armando Liwanag.

“The  NPA now has the critical mass to intensify tactical offensives and increase its  seizure of arms at an unprecedented rate,” Liwanag said in the statement. “It  has raised its capability of arresting for investigation and, if the evidence  warrants, for trial the most rabid puppets of U.S. imperialism, the most corrupt  officials, the most cruel human rights violators, the worst exploiters and crime  lords in prohibited drugs and other nefarious activities.”

“The  attainment of critical mass means it has become extremely difficult, if not  impossible, for the government to overcome the NPA militarily,” said CPP  spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal in a recent interview with Bulatlat .

Surpassing “critical mass”

In  2005, Rosal told Bulatlat , the NPA grew beyond the “critical mass” it  attained last year.

Rosal said the total number of NPA regular, or full-time, fighters has gone up  this year to the equivalent of 27 battalions. Asked for a more exact figure,  Rosal said the NPA is still in the process of consolidating its data for the  present year. But considering that in the military a battalion has about 500  troops, this would mean that the NPA now has roughly about 13,500 regular  fighters.

And  these are just the regular fighters. This does not yet include the members of  the so-called People’s Militia, the village-based NPA fighters who perform  community police functions – whom, as Rosal pointed out, the military describes  as “peasants by day, NPA fighters by night.”

With  the growth in the number of NPA forces has come an increase in the number of  tactical offensives compared to last year, Rosal said.

Citing data obtained from reports by various guerrilla fronts, Rosal said the  NPA was able to wage a total of 116 tactical offensives from Sept. 13 to Nov. 23  this year. Of these, there were five ambushes, six raids, four sparrow  operations (quick attacks in population centers), eight sniping operations, and  14 executions of “criminals and human rights violators.”

From  these, he said, the NPA was able to seize 54 high-powered firearms, as opposed  to one loss. There were 128 government troops killed in action and 73 wounded  during these offensives, as opposed to five killed and two wounded on the NPA  side.

And  that was just from Sept. 13 to Nov. 23. Rosal in particular cited the Southern  Tagalog region, where a total of 62 government troops were killed in NPA  offensives since March.

“This campaign is continuously being pursued,” Rosal said, “and is going to be  pursued until the end of this year.”

The  tactical offensives for this year were particularly numerous in Mindanao and the  Bicol region, said Rosal – owing, he said, to the relative strength of the NPA  in those areas compared to that in other parts of the country.

The  rebel leader said the NPA wages an average of two tactical offensives every week  in 2004. This is roughly equivalent to 104 tactical offensives for the said  year.

Rosal said the NPA still has to consolidate its figures on the exact number of  tactical offensives from the start of 2005 to the time of the interview with Bulatlat . However, he said, with the tactical offensives waged in various  parts of the country from Sept. 13 to Nov. 23 alone, the number of NPA  operations for this year has definitely exceeded that of last year.

The  CPP called for an increase in tactical offensives in the latter part of  mid-2005, Rosal told Bulatlat , as a contribution of the armed  revolutionary movement to the struggle for the ouster of the Macapagal-Arroyo  regime – which is under fire for the imposition of what have been described as  “anti-national and anti-people” policies, corruption, electoral fraud, and human  rights violations. The intensification of tactical offensives, Rosal explained,  serves to weaken the AFP’s capacity and resolve to defend the regime.

With  all these, Rosal said, has come an improvement in the NPA’s capacity to wage  agrarian revolution, which the underground revolutionary movement considers a  main component of the armed struggle. He said there were several successful  campaigns this year for the lowering of debt interest rates and the increase in  peasants’ harvest shares as well as the wages of farm workers and the farm gate  prices of crops.

Increasingly formidable

The  NPA, Rosal said, plans in the next few years to increase the number of guerrilla  fronts it maintains from the present 130 to 140, and attain a more advanced  stage of the present strategic defensive phase of the armed struggle and thus  bring it closer to the strategic stalemate where the armed revolutionary forces  would have acquired capacity for engaging in more massive confrontations with  “enemy” troops.

There is a high probability that the NPA would achieve these goals should it be  able to at least maintain the momentum it attained this year. The NPA upped the  ante this year and it appears there is no stopping it from going further.

It  is clear that the NPA has gone beyond the point where the government began to  stop dismissing it as a “spent force.” From all indications, it is capable of  going even further.

From Bulatlat