By ROGER M. BALANZA
Years ago, a military official said amid massive assaults by New People’s Army (NPA) on government forces in the Davao Region that the primary target of the communist rebels is the capture of Davao City.
Davao City, the premier city of Mindanao and the regional capital of southern Mindanao, is a prized catch for the insurgents.
This has not happened but the prognostication based on recent events is an open-ended scenario with the communist insurgency growing stronger in southern Mindanao. The military has admitted the Jose Maria Sison-founded Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the NPA are now focusing their campaign in eastern Mindanao, particularly the Caraga and Davao regions.
Ever since, the mantra of every incoming chiefs-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a vow to totally crush the communist insurgency during their tenure.
Ever since, the mantra of every outgoing commander of the AFP has always been hot air: that the communist insurgency has been reduced to a minuscule entity as they bow out of office to usher in another chief-of-staff to continue the battle against what military describe as already a ‘non-entity.’
And yet, the insurgency remains alive, if not its forces growing bigger, is growing in ferocity in the fight against government forces; its mass base becoming broader in the hinterland areas despite the military’s intensified peace and development projects of bringing social services in the battle to capture the “heart and mind” of the hinterland population.
Thank God that it has not happened since the 2008 shock and awe prediction of the military official during a public consultation in Compostela Valley about the rebel agenda for Davao Region particularly its regional capital of Davao City.
But even as Davao City remains safe despite the warning of the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division, the military claim the insurgency has been licked remains an untruth.
The insurgency is alive and the rebel agenda of circling and capturing Davao City could still happen.
That the communist insurgency is dying and that it has been reduced to a minuscule entity is a falsity that we confront today.
The facts are clear: After more than 4 decades of fighting, the insurgency is alive; the military boast to crush it remains a dream.
The battle continues and this may include the black scenario of the rebels capturing Davao City if not taking control of its peripheries.
Recent events could be indications of this scenario.
And there might just be a grain of truth in Lt. Col. Sumayo’s dreaded prophecy.
Lt. Col. Sumayo who represented then 10th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jogy Leo Fojas then told an assembly in 2008 in Compostela Valley that the rebel attacks in the province are simultaneous with atrocities in the Sarangani province, North Cotabato, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental.
The military officer made his appearance at the Assembly for Peace, Unity and Good Governance held in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley organized by Governor Arturo Uy, as rebels went on a rampage of abducting troopers and policemen and raiding police and military outposts.
Showing pattern of rebel movements in a PowerPoint presentation, Sumayo pointed to clashes and encounters with the rebels in the provinces north, south, east and west of Davao City. Eventually, when the rebels get a foothold in these critical areas, the movements would lead to Davao City being encircled by rebel forces.
Davao City is the target, he said, explaining the city is at the center of Davao Region’s socio-economic and political activity and the rebels would want to make a loud statement by capturing the region’s capital.
The signs are frightful, if recent events are indications of the rebels’ bad intention of putting Davao City in a stranglehold.
In Davao City’s east-south-west peripheries, the NPA Mt. Apo sub-regional command in tandem with the NPA Far Couth Command operating in the Cotabato provinces recently made its presence anew with attacks in Davao del Sur towns; only this month, the rebels killed two members of the police Special Action Force in an ambush in Barakatan, Toril in Davao City. Only 70 kms. from downtown Davao City in Paquibato District, the First Pulang Bagani Command headed by legendary rebel leader Leoncio “Parago” Pitao remains active in the farflung district and the boundaries with Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.
That rebels have ease in penetrating the urban center was shown in a recent daring attack on an equipment depot of construction company at the heart of the Davao City where they burned heavy equipment.
Compostela Valley, tagged by military along with the Caraga Region as today’s hotbed of communist insurgency, has long coastal areas facing Davao City that could be a launching pad for a sea-borne attack on the city. Inland rebel forces could easily combined with Caraga and Davao del Norte rebel units in a concerted attack on Davao City.
Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has replaced General Emmanuel Bautista as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In his valedictory report, Bautista spelled the gains of the AFP in the counter-insurgency campaign during his term.
In taking over his new post, Catapang vowed to win the battle against the insurgents.
The statement of the generals are recycled accomplishments and vows repeated over and over again.
And yet, the communist insurgency remains alive and stronger.