Four Alleged Communist Rebels Killed in in Southern Philippine Clash

Richel V. Umel, Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Iligan and Cotabato, Philippines
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Four Alleged Communist Rebels Killed in in Southern Philippine Clash Philippine troops transport the bodies of four alleged communist rebels following a clash in the town of San Fernando, in the southern province of Bukidnon, Sept. 8, 2021.
Armed Forces of the Philippines handout

The military said Thursday its soldiers had killed four communist guerrillas in a clash in the southern Philippines, as the government appointed an ex-general who drove the state’s anti-communist campaign as the president’s national security adviser.  

The hour-long clash took place Wednesday in San Fernando village of Bukidnon province, where soldiers went after what was described as New People’s Army (NPA) members conducting a recruitment drive, a military statement said.

The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), engaged in the region’s longest-running insurgency, dating to 1969. “Troops relentlessly pursued the rebels in a decisive engagement that resulted in the death of four rebels, capture of eight others, and rescue of a minor combatant,” the military said. No injuries or deaths were reported on the military side. 

Two captured individuals sustained wounds but were immediately given first aid and taken to a hospital by troops, the military said.

A military official said the minor was 12 years old and was transferred to the custody of social workers. 

“The CPP-NPA-NDF should stop their madness of recruiting children into the armed struggle,” Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, the regional military chief, told reporters. 

The National Democratic Front (NDF) is the political wing of the movement. 

The casualties were part of a 20-person unit of the NPA that was sent to the area to conduct recruitment activities, Almerol said. 

He said the military recovered, among other things, 16 high-powered firearms, including a grenade launcher. 

Almerol asked the rebels to give up peacefully rather than end up as casualties. 

“It is befitting to stress that the whole EastMinCom discourages the use of brute force in confronting the rebels,” he said, referring to the armed forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command. “That is why we continually urge the remaining NPA members to lay down their arms and stop sacrificing their lives for a senseless ideology,” he said.

In 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the security forces to crush the communist rebellion in an “all-out war” by the time his six-year term ends next year.  

One of eight alleged communist rebels wounded in a clash in the southern Philippine province of Bukidnon receives first aid from government soldiers, Sep. 8, 2021. [Armed Forces of the Philippines handout]

Anti-communist commander appointed top security adviser 

The deadly encounter in Bukidnon came just ahead of the government announcing the appointment of controversial ex-army general Antonio Parlade Jr. as the president’s national security adviser. 

Parlade was formerly the spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), an agency tasked with helping reintegrate former rebels back to society. 

But, instead, the agency, and the general, grew controversial for accusing lawmakers, journalists, celebrities and others of being communist rebels or sympathizers.  

The general quit the government anti-communist task force in July.

Parlade “faithfully served the Armed Forces of the Philippines for many years until his retirement from the service,” Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, said Thursday.

 ”We are therefore confident that his length of fruitful service in the military would immensely contribute in the crafting of plans and policies affecting national security,” Roque said.

“We wish Parlade well in his new assignment.” 

Duterte established the task force in December 2018 after failed attempts at peace negotiations with the communists. 

It implements the government’s two-pronged strategy to stamp out the insurgency: sustained military operations against guerrilla units, coupled with local government programs to entice rebels to defect, including amnesty and economic aid packages.  

Parlade earned a reputation for “red-tagging” – a practice among Philippine military and police personnel of accusing individual people or groups of being communist rebels or sympathizers. 

The general has faced defamation cases from leftist lawmakers, groups, and personalities whom he has accused.

He had to apologize publicly or retract his accusations several times, including when he wrongly linked a Filipina movie film star, Angel Locsin, to the communists. 

In February, he also accused Tetch Torres-Tupas, a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, of being a communist propagandist after she reported about indigenous tribespeople petitioning against a controversial anti-terrorism law passed last year.  

Media advocacy and human rights groups complained about Parlade’s comments and his conduct. New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Manila to investigate “red-baiting” and to have Parlade answer for his provocative remarks. 

In recent years, scores of activists and people associated with progressive groups have been killed in assassinations or police operations, often after being red-tagged. 


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