Defense chief: NPA exploited peace talks, recruited fighters during ceasefire

  • DND chief said communist rebels engaged in recruitment during ceasefire
  • Tribal leaders told him how NPA fighters would go and recruit in their villages
  • He said soldiers could do nothing to stop the rebels’ recruitment drive
  • He said there are now an estimated 5,000 communist rebels across PH

MANILA, Philippines – They took advantage of the peace talks.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had this to say about the New People’s Army as he scored them for exploiting the lull in the fighting to bolster their ranks.

“Noong nag-ceasefire tayo, meron silang surge ng mga recruitment [When we had a ceasefire, they had a surge of recruits]. That’s what we heard from our people on the ground,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying.

Lorenzana said he was told by tribal leaders in the Davao region, especially in Davao Oriental, how communist rebels would come to their villages to recruit.

“Yes, they use that. It is true. It was proven in Davao, in Davao Oriental, talagang ganoon ang ginawa nila [that’s really what they’re doing],” he said. “We get a lot of text from the tribal leaders saying ‘Nandito iniipon kami in the guise of talking about the peace process’, but iyon pala ang mga NPA pala ang kaharap nila, hindi naman military [‘We’re being gathered here in the guise of talking about the peace process’, but it was the NPA who faced them, not the military].”

Lorenzana added that soldiers there were powerless to stop the rebels from recruiting.

“They (soldiers) did not know for a while what to do. ‘Sir, what will we do? We are on standby while they continue to recruit people in the barangays,’” he said.

Thanks to their recruitment drive, the NPA now has at least 5,000 fighters among its ranks, the defense chief revealed.