The Communist Party of the Phil-ippines (CPP) celebrated its 50th founding anniversary on Wednesday in small groups and scattered areas to avoid the military’s relentless and intensified counter insurgency operations, a spokesperson said.
“This enabled us to still commemorate our 50 years as well as share to our comrades our achievements and milestones throughout the campaign, further strengthening the morale in our ranks,” Sandara Sidlakan, spokesperson for Guerrilla Fronts 21 and 30 of the New People’s Army (NPA) in northern Mindanao, said in a statement.
The CPP was established along Maoist lines on Dec. 26, 1968, by then university professor Jose Maria Sison and a handful of followers who broke away from the old Soviet-oriented party.
Three months later, on March 29, 1969, the core group formed the NPA with guerrillas to replace the old Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan.
Sidlakan said various guerrilla platoons held their own celebrations on their respective fronts.
She said the rebels had received calls from individuals, politicians and different groups supposedly wanting to attend the celebration.
“But in the present situation, we don’t want to risk the lives of innocent people that might be caught in the aggressive drive of the military,” she said.
“Even before Christmas Day, the Army offensive [in] the different areas in Surigao del Sur has been relentless and has intensified but it has not broken our will and we have still managed to commemorate and celebrate the 50th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Sidlakan said.
The military stepped up its counterinsurgency operations after President Duterte canceled peace talks to end the 50-year communist insurgency in November 2017.
Mr. Duterte has also moved to proscribe as terrorists the CPP, NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Marxist umbrella representing the rebels in the negotiations.
In a separate statement, the regional committee of the CPP on Panay Island said NPA offensives in the area increased 13 percent over last year and recruitment grew 12 percent, the biggest since 1993.
It said the members of village-based rebel militia units also rose 35 percent.
The CPP in Panay, however, lost seven leaders and members in a military and police raid on a rebel safe house in San Jose town, Antique province, on Aug. 15.
Those who died, it said, were unarmed and noncombatant members of the party’s regional education and propaganda staff.
On Christmas Day, guerrillas battled Army Special Forces troops at the boundary of Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur, she said.
In Prosperidad, capital of Agusan del Sur, Brig. Gen. Andres Centino, commander of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade, presented to the media 19 former NPA members who had surrendered.
The group also turned over 14 firearms, including assault rifles and pistols, radios and about 1,300 rounds of ammunition.
One of the leaders of the group, identified only as Ka Boss, said he decided to surrender because of the hardships on the run and his 10-year separation from his family.
In Luzon, the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division commander, Maj. General Rhoderick Parayno, said 164 rebels had surrendered in Calabarzon.
“The (CPP) has lost its relevance [and] is just living on propaganda,” Parayno said. “Those who understand their plight, their cause, are surrendering. They’ve not only lost 50 years. They have wasted 50 years.”
According to the military, more than 1,120 regular NPA fighters and 9,577 members of the “militia ng bayan” nationwide have surrendered to government forces from Jan. 1 to Nov. 28 this year. — PHILS DAILY INQUIRER With reports from Erwin M. Macariñas, Nestro P. Burgos Jr., Chris V. Panganiban and Maricar Cinco