PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — DEFENSE Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, in an interview over Global News Network (GNN) affirmed published reports trumpeting a significant 32% reduction in the New Peoples Army’s (NPA) strength and declining influence in communities. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) estimated the NPA’s strength to be down to 4,874 from 7,170 in 2006.
Teodoro stated that the government is on track in ending the communist insurgency by 2010. He mentioned, however, that a key component to solving this decades-old problem is the passage of the Amnesty Bill pending in the Philippine Senate. The bill, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued as Proclamation 1377 in 2007, provides the social and legal mechanism for rebels to surrender and return to the fold of the law.
Under the pending measure, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has been tasked to accept the application of communist rebels for amnesty, which in turn will be processed by the office of the peace adviser.
Amnesty centers will be established in the provinces, towns and cities all over the country under the supervision of the peace and order councils. The bill has already passed the lower house and needs the concurrence of the Senate.
The defense secretary stated that multi-pronged pressure from the AFP via enhanced combat capabilities and effective community outreach operations has pushed rebels to seriously rethink their situation. “Availing of amnesty through the bill, when it’s in place, then becomes the most logical, practical and reasonable choice for rebels,” Teodoro stated.
“Then we will see the strength of the NPA go down by the hundreds, then thousands until the country is rid of this senseless rebellion,” Teodoro added. He urged the Senate to act on this bill.
When asked about his contributions to the Department of National Defense (DND) and the AFP, Teodoro said that the DND as a policy-forming body of the AFP was able to undertake institutional reforms that led to the significant positive acceptance ratings of the AFP in nationwide surveys. It’s human rights directives have greatly reduced the number of abuses. Teodoro mentioned that DND’s advocacies on professionalism has removed military adventurism.
On corruption, Teodoro stressed: “I do not tolerate any form of corruption in my agency and will not hesitate to punish anyone caught doing so. I lead by example and will never tarnish the good name that my father gave me.”