Recent setbacks and losses in the battlefield did not deter communist rebels in Far South Mindanao Region (FSMR) from gathering and celebrating the 46th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Friday, December 26.
Inviting a handful of media from Davao and General Santos, the spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Far South Mindanao Region said despite the loss of several New People’s Army rebels, they were still able to increase both the number of their armed regulars and high powered firearms.
“We have a netted a 20 percent increase of more than 70 rifles in close to 80 tactical offensives and other non-military operations in 2014,” said NDF-Far South spokesperson Ka Efren from the sidelines.
Ka Efren said they were able to seized 100 high powered firearms in those tactical offensives and other rebel acitivities.
But he admitted losing 23 rifles in 2 separate occasions where 8 NPA regulars were slain.
Among their setbacks was the Sarangani encounter that led to the death of young Rendell Ryan Cagula, former chairman of the student council of the Mindanao campus of the University of the Philippines who joined the NPA in December last year.
Ka Pitpit, commanding officer of the NPA company that showed up during the rebel celebration of the CPP anniversary, said their comrades were about to move out from their position but were raided by a platoon of Philippine Army soldiers shortly after midnight on November 5 in Maasim, Sarangani.
Three NPA rebels, including Cagula, were slain in the military raid in which the Philippine Army was able to seized 9 rifles.
One other NPA member was also killed in another encounter involving a separate NPA platoon a day earlier.
The other major rebel setback was the death of four NPAs, including top ranking rebel leader Mark Bryle Garduque, in October in Malita, Davao Occidental.
Garduque headed one of the NPA platoons under the Front 75 guerrilla unit of the Far South Mindanao Regional Command.
A rebel source confirmed the death of one of their top ranking commanders, including the loss of several firearms.
Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesman of the Army’s 10th division, said 11 high-powered rifles were seized from the rebels during the October encounters in Malita.
Ka Eferen said the death of Cagula, alias Ka Lucas, has inspired many young and new recruits to join the NPA.
“That is the positive side of his (Cagula’s) death,” Ka Efren narrates.
The rebel spokesman said the company of NPA regulars present during the CPP founding anniversary was a newly-formed unit.
The 34-year old Ka Pitpit, who is in his 12th year as an NPA combatant, said most of the new recruits have not been tested in actual combat but are determined and already battle ready.
Ka Efren declined to disclose the armed strength of the NPA under the FSMR committee of the NPA.
Another rebel source however said a bigger formation of NPA regulars also gathered in another guerrilla front in the region while a modest rebel assembly was likewise held in Maasim where they suffered their recent loss.
Ka Efren, meanwhile, said they are willing to resume the stalled peace talks with the Aquino administration provided the Philippine government shows sincerity in resolving the four-decade old armed conflict.