Philippines Communist Insurgency Report – September 2020

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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. The NPA’s capability in 2020 appears to be largely comparable to the diminished capability they displayed in 2019.

Over the long term, the situation is also characterized by uncertainty depending on several factors – including the success of the government’s humanitarian relief and 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.

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 (the NPA has displayed a continued capability in a limited number of instances to conduct complex small arms and IED ambushes. Our sense is that the security forces disrupt far more of these attempted attacks than the NPA successfully executes).

Targeting Corporations with Distributed Operations in Rural Areas:

  • Extortion
  • Arson
  • Raids that involve the seizure of firearms and other supplies

Other Violence Affecting Civilians:

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

The majority of violent incidents will still be armed encounters resulting 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 or 2020. The high point of NPA capability from 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.