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New AFP Chief Esperon vows to crush insurgency

by Pesante-USA Saturday, Jul. 22, 2006 at 1:23 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

New Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon vowed yesterday to crush the 37-year-old communist insurgency during his watch, saying he would devote his last years as a soldier to finish the task. "The President has renewed her call for the defeat of the insurgents ... I welcome the challenge," Esperon said in a speech as he formally took the helm of the 117,000-strong AFP.

New AFP Chief Esperon vows to crush insurgency

By Jaime Laude and James Mananghaya

The Philippine Star 07/22/2006

New Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon vowed yesterday to crush the 37-year-old communist insurgency during his watch, saying he would devote his last years as a soldier to finish the task.

"The President has renewed her call for the defeat of the insurgents ... I welcome the challenge," Esperon said in a speech as he formally took the helm of the 117,000-strong AFP.

"We cannot, as a nation, afford to fight an endless war foisted by the communists," Esperon said. "To build a strong republic... we must defeat the communist terrorists soonest."

Esperon, the 54-year-old former Army commander who led troops in battling communist and Muslim rebels in Mindanao, made the promise to President Arroyo who witnessed the formal turnover of command from Gen. Generoso Senga, who stepped down upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Mrs. Arroyo last month ordered an intensified campaign to finish off the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its 7,000-strong armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Mrs. Arroyo backed the order with the release of P1 billion for the purchase of attack helicopters and other military equipment.

The President also vowed the military would destroy rebel logistics bases and support networks.

"Those who cling to the failed ideology and impose their political will by force shall be met with counter- force," Mrs. Arroyo declared.

In an interview with reporters shortly after the formal turnover ceremony, Esperon said his priority would be to comply with the presidential directive to run the communist guerrillas to the ground.

But he said the military would need to refocus its efforts in order to meet the two-year deadline imposed by the President.

"In order to accomplish our task, we will rapidly build up our forces for the front lines," Esperon said.

"We shall generate more forces by re-deploying and task organizing units and raising more battalions through creative means," he said.

Esperon said the major services will play a key role in the build up of forces in the front lines.

"Additionally, we must optimize our synergy and convergence with the Philippine National Police (PNP)," Esperon said.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon said a meeting with the new AFP chief is scheduled next week to map out strategies and identify rebel-infested areas in the country.

"We will have a joint summit conference with the Armed Forces to start identifying those areas which could be handled by PNP," Calderon said.

He said the joint summit will be held after Mrs. Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Calderon said the PNP will have a better role in the anti-insurgency campaign to end the 37-year-old insurgency.

"So we are now identifying areas where we could really have a principal role as far as insurgency is concerned. There would be areas where AFP would be on support role, like the highly urbanized (places like) Metro Manila," he said.

Calderon said Metro Manila, Davao, Cebu, Baguio, and Dagupan cities would be given to the PNP for internal security operations. "Yung mga rural areas ay bibigay namin sa AFP (The rural areas would be given to the AFP)," he said.

‘Major step in right direction’

On the other hand, a former communist leader lauded the government efforts to crush the NPA as "a major step in the right direction."

Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) chairman Pastor Alcover Jr. said the joint effort of the AFP and PNP to end the 37-year rebellion underscores the need for the citizenry to ensure the success of the campaign.

"The government is moving in the right direction because it realizes that bullets alone will not solve the problem. We should mobilize the entire citizenry in the fight against insurgency," Alcover said.

He said the problem of insurgency is not only the concern of the security forces but of all freedom-loving Filipinos. — With Cecille Suerte Felipe, AP

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