New People's Army (NPA)
The New People's Army (NPA) is the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an avowedly Maoist group formed in December 1969 with the aim of overthrowing the government through protracted guerrilla warfare. Jose Maria Sison, the Chairman of the CPP’s Central Committee and the NPA’s founder, reportedly directs CPP and NPA activity from the Netherlands, where he lives in self-imposed exile. Luis Jalandoni, a fellow Central Committee member and director of the CPP’s overt political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), also lives in the Netherlands and has become a Dutch citizen.
Although primarily a rural-based guerrilla group, the NPA has an active urban infrastructure to carry out terrorism; uses city-based assassination squads called sparrow units. Derives most of its funding from contributions of supporters and so-called revolutionary taxes extorted from local businesses. NPA was in disarray because of a split in the CPP, a lack of money, and successful government operations. With the US military bases gone from the country, NPA engaged in urban terrorism against the police, corrupt politicians, and drug traffickers. Strength was estimated by the US government as of 2000 at several thousand. The Philippines government estimates there are 4,000 members.
The CPP/NPA primarily targeted Philippine security forces, government officials, local infrastructure, and businesses that refused to pay extortion, or “revolutionary taxes.” The CPP/NPA charged politicians running for office in CPP/NPA-influenced areas for “campaign permits.” Despite its focus on Philippine governmental targets, the CPP/NPA has a history of attacking U.S. interests in the Philippines. In 1987, the CPP/NPA conducted direct actions against U.S. personnel and facilities killing three American soldiers in four separate attacks in Angeles City. In 1989, the CPP/NPA issued a press statement claiming responsibility for the ambush and murder of Colonel James Nicholas Rowe, chief of the Ground Forces Division of the Joint U.S.-Military Advisory Group.
In 2002, the United States and the European Union placed the CPP and the CPP’s armed affiliate, the New People’s Army (“NPA”), on their lists of “foreign terrorist organizations.” As a result, the United States and European governments have frozen financial accounts linked to these groups and restricted travel of CPP and NPA members in the United States and the European Union. The Government and the National Democratic Front (“NDF”), a political organization closely aligned with the CPP and NPA, have held three rounds of peace talks in Oslo, Norway, since February 2004. However, sporadic fighting between the NPA and Armed Forces of the Philippines (“AFP”) continued.
In early July 2006, members of the NDF requested the Government to resume peace talks and end the security operations against the NPA. NDF chairman, Luis Jalandoni, announced that members of the NDF had been dispatched to Norway for consultation with the Norwegian foreign ministry, which has been working as a mediator between the NDF and the Government for several years.
On July 5, 2006, the Government encouraged exiled leaders of the CPP and the NDF to show goodwill by agreeing to an immediate ceasefire and dropping their condition to the resumption of the negotiations that the European Union and the United States delist the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations. The Government stated that if the exiled leaders agreed to its proposals, it would grant them safe passage to return to the Philippines; however, the peace negotiations between the Government and the NDF were not resumed.
On July 14, 2006, then President Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 546, which directs the PNP and local officials to actively support the AFP in joint military and police operations against communist rebel groups, and in 2007, the AFP outlined a three-year strategy to end the communist insurgency by the end of then President Arroyo’s term in 2010. However, following the implementation of the strategy, the military was criticized for alleged human rights violations and on November 26, 2007, the UN Human Rights Council, following its investigation into the deaths and disappearances of certain leftist leaders in the Philippines, announced its conclusion that the AFP had killed those leftist activists as part of a campaign against communist insurgents.
The UN Human Rights Council also concluded that the combat operations impeded the NDF’s and CPP’s willingness to participate in talks with the Government. In light of the criticism, in the latter part of then President Arroyo’s term, the AFP focused less on combat operations and more on information campaigns and development projects to counter civilian support for the NPA.
Although formal peace talks with communist-affiliated groups had been suspended since August 2004, the peace process proceeded through “informal engagements” that are designed to allow both parties to speak informally and with no pre-agreed agenda. As a result of the informal talks that occurred from May 13 to 15, 2008 and November 28 to 30, 2008, the Government, the NDF and the NPA agreed to work towards the resumption of formal talks.
The Government lifted the suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees on July 17, 2009 to allow members of the NPA to prepare for meetings scheduled in August 2009 in Norway; however, these meetings were cancelled due to disagreements between the parties over additional NDF conditions to the resumption of talks.
On December 14, 2010, ten soldiers from the AFP were killed in a raid by suspected members of the NPA in Northern Samar province. The AFP has also stated that NPA members fired at AFP troops on December 23, 2010 in violation of a ceasefire agreement that was to be effective between the Government and the NPA from December 16, 2010 to January 3, 2011. An NPA spokesperson refuted the AFP’s claim and accused AFP troops of launching their own attacks in violation of the ceasefire.
Despite these and other sporadic incidents involving the NPA, President Aquino’s administration resumed peace talks with the NPA and the CPP from February 15 to 21, 2011 in Oslo, Norway. Having resumed negotiations after more than six years of hostilities, the two sides announced that they had made progress in the meetings and had agreed to continue discussions and negotiations with the goal of achieving a formal peace agreement by 2012.
Negotiations again stalled in June 2011 due to the NDF’s unilateral refusal to engage in further talks until 13 of its agents are released from Government custody. Meanwhile, intermittent clashes continue, including an explosion from a landmine allegedly laid by the NPA that killed three AFP soldiers in late October 2011 and a firefight on December 16, 2011 in which five AFP soldiers were killed. On December 19, 2011, the CPP declared a ceasefire from December 31, 2011 to January 2, 2012, during which it pledged to refrain from further attacks on AFP soldiers. The Government had earlier declared a ceasefire from December 16, 2011 to January 2, 2012.
Under the administration of President Aquino, the Government remained open to the possibility of resuming the formal negotiations with the NDF, the NPA and the CPP at the appropriate time. The Government Negotiating Panel for Peace Talks has been reconstituted; however, the Government has indicated that the release from custody of the 13 NDF agents, as requested by the NDF, is unacceptable as a condition to resuming talks.
The Government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in coordination with concerned Government agencies, is simultaneously pursuing other modes of addressing the problems posed by rebel groups. These include implementing peace and development projects in conflict-affected communities to address the root causes of the insurgency; addressing human rights violations in relation to the conflict; implementing a formal agenda with respect to indigenous peoples; addressing the situation of internally displaced persons; enhancing the re-integration program for rebels returning to society; and laying an administrative framework for good governance in the ARMM. The Government has recently constructed farm-to-market roads, school buildings and electrical and water facilities in an effort to improve conditions in many of the conflict-affected communities.
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