Philippine military: Ready to thwart communist rebel attacks during holidays

Basilio Sepe and Jojo Riñoza
Manila and Dagupan, Philippines
Philippine military: Ready to thwart communist rebel attacks during holidays Filipino activists carry signs as they march in honor of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, the late founder of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Dec. 19, 2022.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Philippine forces are ready to thwart any holiday-time attacks by communist rebels, who have threatened strikes to mark their party’s upcoming anniversary and to honor its founder who died last week, the military said Tuesday. 

Jose Maria “Joma” Siso died abroad on Friday as his outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines prepared to mark the 54th anniversary of its founding on Dec. 26.

“The whole Armed Forces of the Philippines is prepared to deal with them if they [the communists] push through with their threat,” Philippine military spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said over Manila radio.

“Their guerrilla fronts are still capable of conducting underground activities and small-scale tactical offensives. But not large-scale [operations] that warrant the concern of the people.”

Sison died in the Netherlands, where he had lived for decades in self-exile. He was 83.

Sison had founded the CPP, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion against Manila since 1969, one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world. The fighting has killed thousands of Filipinos, and efforts at peace talks have failed repeatedly.

The CPP had declared a 10-day mourning period for Sison, but said that wouldn’t stop its guerrilla wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), from carrying out ”tactical offensives against the rampaging fascist forces to defend the people.” It was referring to government forces.

The CPP said it was dedicating its anniversary celebration to Sison. 

On Monday, the CPP had said “it is the duty of the NPA to come to the people’s armed defense, even during these holidays.”

“As we join the people in solidarity with their holidays and marking the 54th anniversary of the Party on Dec. 26, and even as we mourn the recent passing away of our beloved comrade Jose Maria Sison, the NPA is authorized to launch tactical offensives against the fascist enemy of the people,” the party said in a statement.

All rebel units “can concentrate superior force against the isolated, weak and tired units” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police “in order to punish the masterminds and perpetrators of the growing number of fascist crimes,” the CPP added.

The threat made by the CPP to launch attacks during the holiday season “is an irresponsible statement,” according to Aguilar.

Any offensives being planned by the communist party “will not help our country, [and] that is unacceptable to the people who are clamoring for peace,” Agular said.

And when asked whether the government would declare a traditional unilateral Christmas truce this year, he replied: “We are waiting for the decision of our national leadership.”

The military had earlier said that Sison’s death was a blow to the CPP.

Last month, military chief Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro said that battlefield victories had slashed the strength of communist rebels in the Philippines by nearly 75% to two dozen “guerrilla fronts.” 

He said the number of active NPA fighters had dwindled to about 2,112, from a high of about 20,000 fighters in the 1980s.


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