Lt. Col. Joel Benedict G. Batara, commander of 61IB under the 3rd Infantry Division, said in an interview on Wednesday that the CNTs are taking advantage of the time while military forces are busy in the campaign against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“We have monitored massive recruitment, especially of minors, in Antique province,” Batara said, adding that this is intended to reclaim some areas in the province that were declared as insurgent-free in 2015.
“Massive recruitment is particularly happening in the municipalities of Sibalom, San Remigio and Hamtic,” he said, adding that CNTs’ extortion activities are also being done simultaneously to beef up their logistical strength.
Batara noted that during their encounter with CNTs in Barangay Cabalaunan, Miagao in Iloilo last April 18, they were able to capture five minors who are residents of barangays Igpanolong and Tordesillas in Sibalom.
“The minors from Sibalom were turned over to the Sibalom municipal social welfare and development office for psycho-social counseling,” he said.
Antique’s provincial social welfare and development office also assisted in the conduct of psycho-social counseling.
Meanwhile, during the meeting of the League of the Municipalities in the Philippines - Antique chapter on June 16, Batara appealed to the local chief executives (LCEs) of the 18 municipalities to strengthen their Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC).
“I appeal to the LCEs to support the TF-ELCAC by bringing basic services to the people,” he said.
Countering the CNTs’ massive recruitment is not only through military patrol or combat but through convergence efforts to bring basic services to the people, especially in the remote areas, Batara added. (PNA)
By Annabel Consuelo Petinglay