Philippines Communist Insurgency Report – December 2019

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PSA’s Forward-Looking Assessment: Over the short term, PSA anticipates that the high level of uncertainty will affect the intensity of communist insurgency activity. NPA incidents will continue to fluctuate in frequency month to month. However, NPA operational capacity does appear diminished in comparison to 2017 and 2018, largely as a result of government operations.

Over the long term, the situation is also characterized by uncertainty depending on several factors – including the success of the government’s economic development policies. The CPP/NPA retains a level of popular support, particularly in rural areas, as well as the capacity to recruit and fund raise
through so called “legal fronts.” These two factors, support amongst the rural poor and the relatively extensive nature of the “legal fronts” help provide the NPA with resilience even as the security forces degrade their armed capabilities.

In terms of geography, NPA activity will continue to take place in rural areas throughout the country. There are a few exceptions including Cebu province and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as well as some areas in the Luzon and Visayas regions.

PSA notes, however, that there are often recorded arrests in urban areas, including Metro Manila and its peripheries.

PSA notes that on December 19 there was a shootout in Quezon City during an arrest operation of wanted NPA rebels. One civilian was killed. PSA notes that violence between the NPA and Government Security forces in Metro Manila is extremely rare. No incident of this kind exists in PSA’s database of incidents, and the last time this happened was probably in the 1990s. However as the incident was an arrest operation by security forces, it does not indicate a change in NPA tactics or strategic commitment to a rural insurgency

The communist insurgency is still characterized by the following tactics, techniques, and characteristics:

Targeting Security Forces

  • Assassinations
  • Harassment (limited engagements with small arms fire)
  • Small arms and IED ambushes

Targeting Corporations with Distributed Operations in Rural Areas:

  • Extortion
  • Arson
  • Raids that involve the seizure of firearms

Other Violence Effecting Civilians:

  • Targeted assassinations of former rebels, suspected informants, local government leaders, and tribal leaders.
  • Unintentional civilian casualties resulting from NPA attacks against the security forces and other targets.

The majority of violent incidents will still be armed encounters that result from government operations targeting communist insurgents. The NPA historically has an infrequent capability to conduct large-scale and coordinated attacks against multiple targets. Nationwide, no successful operations of that level of sophistication have occurred in 2019. The high point of NPA capability in 2019 until now was the successful ambush of government forces on November 11 in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, however this capability is still less than what the NPA demonstrated in 2017 or 2018.