Farcical “surrender” numbers of NTF-ELCAC aim to secure more funds for Duterte’s election war chest

Marco Valbuena | Chief Information Officer | Communist Party of the Philippines June 02, 2021

We denounce the farcical numbers of “rebel surrenderees” being reported by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in its desperate bid to make the public believe that Duterte is winning the war against the New People’s Army (NPA) and the revolutionary movement and in the hope of securing billions upon billions of pesos more funds for the military.

Last Monday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bragged that 17,958 “rebels” have surrendered to the Philippine reactionary government since 2016. The AFP claims that of these, 3,684 are “regular members” of the NPA, while the rest are supposed members of mass organizations and local militias.

If these claims were true, then there should be only 16 members of the NPA left considering that since 2017, the AFP has been repeatedly claiming that there are 3,700 members of the NPA. This becomes even more ludicrous with the statement last Monday by Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Duterte’s National Security Adviser, that the NPA now has 4,000 members. This, of course, is an underestimation of the real strength of the NPA.

Using the AFP’s concocted figures, one can only conclude that the NPA has been able to replenish its ranks with 3,984 new fighters over the past 4 years, or around 1,000 new members a year. This contradicts their repeated claims that the NPA has been “weakened” and is “on a decline.” It contradicts, as well, the claim made by Gen. Esperon that from 822, there are now 2,220 barangays “cleared of NPA presence.” How can there be more “cleared barangays” when the NPA continues to grow?

The real aim of these figures is to secure more and more funds for the anomalous counterinsurgency programs of the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC, now that budget deliberations are soon to open. These military-controlled programs include the much assailed Barangay Development Program (BDP) and the Enhanced Community Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP), which are all cash cows serving as the military’s pork barrel. For instance, under the E-CLIP, each “surrenderee” is supposed to receive ₱65,000, but reports abound of them typically receiving only a grocery bag of rice and canned goods. Gen. Esperon is puffing up his numbers with the ambition of securing ₱44 billion for the BDP (at ₱20 million per barangay) in the 2022 budget to serve as election war chest for the Duterte-Duterte tandem.

Under the Duterte regime, it is the AFP and the PNP that enjoys the biggest increases in budgetary allocations to enable the purchase of attack helicopters, war planes, bombs, artillery, guns and bullets, as well as to pay the salary increases and pensions of the over-bloated military personnel.

The truth is that these numbers being reported by the NTF-ELCAC and the AFP are all a farce. Of course, some NPA fighters have surrendered or absconded. This is a natural occurrence in the course of fighting a war. But their numbers are more likely around 5% of that being claimed by the AFP.

The great majority of the rest of the 17 thousand “surrenderees” are unarmed peasants who have been subjected by the military to relentless harassment and suppression. They are, in fact, victims of false and baseless accusations by the AFP. They were forced to “cooperate” with the military under pain of being arrested on trumped up charges or killed, which has become the norm in the conduct of the AFP’s dirty war.

Still, if this were true, 17 thousand is a very small number relative to the millions of peasants and other sectors belonging to the various mass organizations under the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and in territories under the People’s Democratic Government.

Despite the brutal war of suppression being waged by the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), the New People’s Army and all revolutionary forces led by the CPP remain determined to resist and surmount the fascist onslaught of the Duterte terror regime.