AT LEAST 10 members of the New People’s Army have surrendered every day in the past two months, cutting by almost 20 percent the total strength of the rebel group, data from the Armed Forces of the Philippines showed.
“This is the highest number of surrenderers ever,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia told Manila Standard. “Even we were surprised at the spike. We even had to delay the release of these numbers because we had to validate them.”
As of March 4, some 607 regular members of the rebel group have surrendered since the start of the year, accounting for about 16 percent of the AFP’s working figure on the NPA’s total strength at 3,700.
“We have yet to account for their rate of recruitment. But we have reason to believe they are not able to recruit as many now as before,” Garcia said.
Garcia said an additional 1,656 who surrendered belonged to militia ng bayan groups, underground mass organizations, and mass supporters.
Of the total 2,263 NPA members and supporters who have surrendered, an overwhelming 90 percent were from the Davao Region.
Garcia said the unusually high number of NPA who are surrendering can be traced to President Rodrigo Duterte’s assurance that the government will give them houses and jobs.
“Look, I am addressing myself to all the soldiers of the New People’s Army. Just surrender and give up your guns. Jobs await you. And I am building, all throughout the country, almost 5,000 housing units through the National Housing Authority,” the President said in November.
“I’m just saying—if you surrender, if you are tired of killing your fellow Filipino, surrender now. I will automatically give you a house. I will give you a job,” he added.
Duterte made the pronouncements even as peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democractic Front remained stalled.
CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, for his part, belittled the AFP data, saying these were “fake surrenders.”
“The usual method used by the military is to invite civilians to attend a meeting. They are asked to sign an attendance sheet. This sheet is subsequently attached to the text of surrender. Further on, the fake surrenderers are enticed with a junket to Manila for presentation to Duterte,” Sison said.
“If you were to believe the AFP data, then the NPA should have been wiped out by now,” Sison added.