The New People’s Army (NPA) had taken advantage of the ceasefire related to the peace talks to recruit over 1,000 new members, a military official said Wednesday.
“They really took advantage of the peace talks. About 1,000 plus were probably recruited during the six months na hindi tayo nagkakaroon ng combat operations against the New People’s Army,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Garcia of the military’s Civil Relations Service during a roundtable discussion in Quezon City.
“Ginamit nila ito (ceasefire) just to strengthen their ranks,” he added.
Both the government and the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), had declared ceasefire in connection with the peace negotiations. However, NPA attacks on soldiers prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the ceasefire and, subsequently, cancel the negotiations.
Citing military records, Garcia said there were about 3,700 armed NPA rebels before the peace talks.
“Ayon sa dating numero natin before sa peace talks, 3,700. According ‘yan sa mga revelations ng mga surrendered o captured na mga NPA din,” he said.
“But as of now, may lumalabas na there are more than that dahil from the start of the negotiations, nag-recruit sila (NPA). They used the peace talks to recruit more new blood sa kanilang organization,” Garcia added.
Following the cancellation of the peace talks, the government said it is observing an “all-out war” against the NPA.
Garcia said the all-out war would be “selective” to allay fears of possible human rights violations.
“We will only be targeting the NPA or the armed elements, para mawala yung agam-agam na baka may human rights violations o kung ano pa man dahil nagdaan na tayo diyan noong Martial law,” Garcia said. —KBK, GMA News