By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy
THE murder of four policemen in Oriental Negros once again reminds us that the communist New People’s Army remains a serious threat to the nation’s peace and order situation. Sure their number has been reduced considerably from the military estimate of over 23,000 fighters nationwide at the height of martial law. There are less than 400 in Negros Island as of last year. That’s still a lot of fire power. These numbers however are estimates; they can be higher or lower. Nobody knows for certain and there are unknown numbers of sympathizers that are necessary in any guerrilla war.
Ranged against the NPA are two army brigades, one in each Negros province and an unpublished number of policemen in the two provinces. Despite this number of government forces, the NPA remains free to roam the countryside and conduct this kind of operation.
The killing of the four policemen, however, shows a different method being used by the NPA. This time they tortured and executed their victims, something unheard of even during the apex of the communist rebellion. They would execute their victims but not hogtie and torture them because the idea of inflicting excruciating pain on their victims ran counter to the communist claim against the methods used by the government under martial law. Torture is counterproductive in any war.
The recent killing is the second to hit the PNP in Oriental Negros when six police officers and one civilian were also ambushed and killed by the NPA in 2017. The difference is the absence of torture in that ambush.
Press reports say the policemen were intelligence officers disguised as foresters. Their cover didn’t work. They were “set up” and “waylaid” which means they were in pursuit of information that led them to the trap.
Is there a failure of intelligence on the part of the PNP? Was it mere carelessness, a sense of security in their disguise? That’s poor and deadly tactics.
The NPAs are guerrilla fighters and they strike at any time and at any place; the least they are expected the more effective they become. That is the key to their capability to hit their targets without loss on their part. Their capabilities however prevent them from waging an open, frontal war.
I am certain the PNP as well as the AFP know guerrilla tactics so that any ambush of this kind indicates a greater failure within the organization. Was there a back-up, for instance, or was this a “lone wolf” operation?
Lately, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin asked the United States for 74,000 brand new M-16 rifles with 3 clips each. He did not ask for naval vessels and guns, jet fighters or missiles but rather the infantry man’s basic weapon. This means his priority is the fight against the communist insurgents and not a confrontation with China in the West Philippine Sea.
Is there an increase in the NPA capability to strike? It seems so otherwise Locsin would have asked for military hardware needed for the defense of the country against the incursions of China through their disguised “fishermen” and not for the land based soldier or policeman. He was reported to have Twitted that “President Duterte will finish all security threats to our democracy.”
Did the President refer to the communists as a security threat he would eliminate in the same manner as he is doing with illegal drugs trade? Is the NPA rising as a national threat rather than, as some experts said, a police matter?
The recent incidents against the police seem to suggest that the police are the prime targets. The NPA, as I noted before, appears reluctant to engage the army but the insurgents cannot afford not to be “noticed” and must strike. The police are “easy” targets considering their training, ease of contact and capabilities.
Is there some reason for the torture, a change in style?