Fresh New People’s Army (NPA) recruits in the Southern Tagalog region would be facing a baptism of fire from the military’s all-out war, a ranking military officer said Wednesday.
Major Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (ID), said they had received reports that the NPA had launched a massive recruitment campaign within their area of operation during the five months since the government declared a ceasefire.
Parayno said the rebels needed to replenish their dwindling ranks in the region which comprises the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.
“We are still validating this information,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the communist rebels took advantage of the peace process by recruiting members, creating a surge of recruits during the ceasefire.
In Quezon, Col. Lenard Agustin, commander of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade, also reported that the communist rebels in the province took advantage of the ceasefire and recruited new combatants to replenish their diminishing ranks.
“They (NPA) were able to recruit new combatants especially during their anniversary celebration last month,” Agustin said.
He declined to give the number of new combatants since the figures were still to be subjected to validation.
Parayno said the military forces under his command were ready to implement an all-out war against the rebels. “Our operations are ongoing,” he said.
Agustin told “peace loving people” of Quezon not to be afraid of the military in the resumption of the counter-insurgency campaign. He appealed to civilians and local and barangay officials not to support the insurgents and instead support the government counter-insurgency operation.
Since the rebels have been tagged by President Duterte as “terrorists,” Agustin warned rebel supporters that the military will also consider them as “terrorists.”