‘Let’s not allow them to die of old age’

Lieutenant General Benedict Arevalo looks on as newly installed 301st IB acting commander Colonel Michael Samson (right) shakes hand with his predecessor, Brigadier General Marion Sison. (Jennifer P. Rendon)

By Jennifer P. Rendon

Without beating around the bush, the AFP Visayas Command (VisCom) head sought the dismantling of the New People’s Army (NPA) as soon as possible.

“Let’s not allow them to die of old age,” Lieutenant General Benedict Arevalo, VisCom chief and concurrent 3rd Infantry Division commander, told newly installed 301st IB acting commander Colonel Michael Samson.

“Let’s not wait for them to fade away,” he added.

Arevalo presided in the turnover of command ceremony between Samson and outgoing 301st IB commander, Brigadier General Marion Sison, on Thursday, February 9. The latter is now the 3rd ID assistant division commander.

Arevalo enjoined the troops to exert pressure in their operations to be able to convince the NPAs to go back to the folds of the law.

“If not, we capture or neutralize them,” he said.

Arevalo said that these are the ways that the government troops could continuously weaken the remaining guerilla fronts in Panay.

Currently, all four guerilla fronts of the 3rd ID are considered weakened.

Arevalo said they are taking necessary steps to fast-track the dismantling of these guerilla fronts.

“We will do everything to neutralize the armed components of the CPP-NPA and we can do this through the tools that we use. We have the combat operations and the civilian-military operations (CMO) where we encourage the remaining rebels to lay down their firearms and surrender and go back to the folds of the law,” he said.

Further, “with our precision in our combat operations, we will be able to target the armed component of the NPAs. And if we can do this, of course, we will not wait for them to die of old age.”

Compared to three years ago, Arevalo said the NPAs in Panay are weaker now.

“After the Miag-ao operation, we can see that they have really weakened and although they are harder to track now because they were able to adjust their operational practices to counter the effects that we delivered during the Miag-ao operation, we’re doing everything to pinpoint them with accuracy and be able to neutralize them as soon as possible,” he said.

Nine rebels were killed after Army soldiers overran their lair in Miag-ao, Iloilo early morning of Dec. 1, 2021.

One of those killed was Joven Ceralvo alias Lex, a local NPA leader.

With Ceralvo’s death, the group is still scouring for a leader in the Panay area.

Presently, Arevalo said the NPAs have around 200 to 250 armed combatants.

There are about the same number in Negros Island.