By Jennifer P. Rendon
The death of Police Captain Efren Espanto Jr., the young officer killed in an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA), will not be in vain.
No less than Philippine National Police chief General Archie Francisco Gamboa assured that the police force would hunt down NPA rebels to give justice to Espanto.
“Babawi tayo,” Gamboa said, immediately after going to the wake of the slain police officer at the Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 chapel in Camp Martin Delgado, Iloilo City on Feb 15, 2020.
“At magtago na sila kasi babawi ang Philippine National Police and I will be true to that word,” he said.
By “babawi tayo” means the PNP will launch offensives against the rebel group.
Gamboa said it’s up to the PNP regional director on how to mobilize the personnel, particularly the Regional Mobile Force Battalion, because “the targets must also be very specific, so as not to waste logistics.”
But Gamboa said there is one option left to the rebels – lay down their arms.
“Ang sinasabi ko naman palagi when there are casualties like this, bakit hindi pa kasi kayo bumaba. It’s a different government. Nandito kami. When you go down, you surrender your firearms, you go back to the folds of the law, there’s livelihood offered. There’s housing at mabuhay kayo ng libre at pwede kayong bumalik sa ordinaryong pamumuhay rather than ganito maglaban laban tayo kapwa Pilipino,” he said.
This is the reason why, Gamboa added, that they are pushing for localized peace talks.
Gamboa told the NPA that they would surely see how the government serves the people with services being brought down to the farthest barangays in the country.
He also cited the government’s infrastructure projects to reach far-flung communities.
“Again, we would like to encourage lalo na ang mga nasa kabila ang mga NPA na bumaba na kayo rather than ito ngayon kinunan niyo kami, so kukukha rin kami. Ganito na lang ba tayo palagi? Patayan na lang nang patayan,” he said.
NPAs as CAFGU members
Gamboa also revealed “rough ideas” and proposals to commission rebels to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to become CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit).
He cited success stories nationwide of rebels who were enlisted as regular AFP members.
“Mahirap kasi sa police. Maraming requirements, eligibility. But right away, the AFP can address that,” he said.
Gamboa said that during the briefing in Malacañang this month, he heard of success stories of commissioning rebels into the country’s armed forces.
Gamboa said more than 200 policemen lost their lives in the fight against all forms of criminality in this present administration.
However, “just like illegal drugs, death is a consequence. Of course, palagi kong guidance sa kapulisan ko wag tayong pauuna.
‘Pag bumunot ‘yan unahan niyo na because there are a lot of experiences na ano hintayin pa natin magpaputok ang kalaban bago tayo magpaputok? Hintayin pa natin pumutok ang baril niyo? No, it’s a natural course of action of any individual to preserve your life first,” he said.
Espanto was the team leader of the RMFB-6 Reconnaissance Company that figured in an encounter with members of the New People’s Army in Barangay Aglobong, Janiuay, Iloilo on Feb. 12, 2020.
His body was discovered by another RMFB-6 Reconnaissance team at around 3 a.m. of Feb. 13. He succumbed to a gunshot wound on the head.
Hours after the incident, the NPA’s Coronaciok “Waling-Waling” Chiva Command hailed its troops for what they perceived as a successful offensive operation against Espanto’s team.