Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade Commander, said yesterday that intelligence reports gathered by the army show that the New People’s Army in Negros Occidental is importing high-ranking rebel officials from Southern Luzon and Samar provinces to boost their forces in the province.
Lactao, who presented a report on the state of insurgency in the province at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod before stake holders yesterday, said that there is now a vacuum in the NPA hierarchy, because of the arrests of high-ranking rebels in Negros Occidental this year that should be filled.
He said the NPA would not just easily give up its territories in the province as Negros Occidental is considered as one of the “laboratories” of rebels to advance their war to a strategic stalemate with government forces.
The insurgency situation in Negros Occidental, however, is on the downtrend, as rebels have suffered major setbacks and their strengths had been reduced due to the continuous anti-insurgency campaigns of government troops, Lactao said.
He also stressed that the importation of high-ranking rebel leaders from other areas in the Philippines to the province should not be cause for alarm.
“What can 200 NPAs do? They cannot impose their rules over three million Negrenses. They have to learn the game of democratic politics first and convince the people that their platform is right,” Lactao said.
“The fight right now is more on the socio-economic and psycho-social dimension of insurgency. We need to address the problems of poverty, livelihood and education to sustain the anti-insurgency drive,” he added.
Although the insurgency rate in the province in dropping, Lactao said, this should not be a reason to rest.
Meanwhile, he said, they do not have any confirmation yet on who will replace alleged top rebel leader Romeo Nanta, 52, who was arrested last month in Cadiz City, but they have received reports that someone has been chosen to replace Nanta.
Nanta, with the three aliases of Juanito Magbanua, Jack Nanta, Islaw and Kulas, also served as the commander of the NPA in central Negros, and ranked number three in the Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros hierarchy, next only to priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez and his deputy secretary, Cleofe Lagtapon.
He was arrested by the police and the military in Brgy. Zone 2, Cadiz City, by virtue of arrest warrants for rebellion, robbery-in-band, attempted and frustrated murder issued by Judges Moises Nifras of the San Carlos City Regional Trial Court, Jose Aguirre of the Himamaylan City Regional Trial Court and Victor Magahud of the Ilog-Candoni Municipal Circuit Trial Court.
Nifras denied Nanta bail for robbery-in-band charges, while Aguirre and Magahud both recommended P200,000 bail for the charges of rebellion, frustrated murder and attempted murder.
Nanta was linked to the bombing of Globe Telecom towers in Toboso and Cauayan, the raid of a police station in La Libertad, Negros Oriental, military detachments in Escalante and Toboso in Negros Occidental in 2006 and 2010, burning and bombing of two transloading stations in Toboso and that of Victorias Milling Company water system in Victorias City, ambush-slay of three civilians in Brgy. Salamanca, Toboso and harassment of a detachment in Brgy. Villegas, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, military records also show.*APN