By Paulo Loreto Lim
Following a briefing with Philippine Army 303rd Infantry Brigade (303 IB) deputy commander, Colonel Inocencio Pasaporte, Negros Occidental Provincial Board Member David Albert Lacson yesterday revealed the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros has grown in numbers.
He noted, they have also managed to acquire more firearms.
Most recently, the NPA is suspected behind an ambush of police officers in Cauayan earlier this month; along with claiming responsibility for the death of former commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) Jovanie Banista in Kabankalan City.
The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOPPO) also suspects the rebel group to be behind last month’s raid of the solar energy farm in Cadiz City; however, Negros Occidental Provincial Board Member Salvador Escalante, Jr. contradicted the provincial law enforcement body, claiming it was not the NPA but “other lawless elements.”
Escalante recently revealed he is considering running for mayor of the city in 2019, in an effort to replace his brother, incumbent Mayor Patrick Escalante.
Based on data provided by Pasaporte, the NPA currently wields a strong influence in Escalante City, Toboso, and Calatrava in the north; and Cauayan, Hinoba-an, Ilog, Candoni, Kabankalan City, and Sipalay City in the south.
Back in July, various divisions of the local Philippine Army dismissed the power of the NPA on the island.
3rd Civil Military Operations (CMO) spokesperson Salvador Balontong said the rebel group is “desperate” to win back local sympathies and are engaged in a propaganda campaign. Meanwhile, 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) commander, Major General Jon Aying, said the group’s actions are merely a front.
“[The NPA] want to shock the government and project that they are still a strong group,” he said./WDJ