Vigilance, not just piety, should be the watchword of citizens and our uniformed forces alike during the nation’s observance of Lent this week.
Let’s get some things clear. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has not denied that the New People’s Army (NPA) has revived its infamous hit squad called the NPA Sparrow unit. What it did was charge that the Duterte government is hatching up another tyrannical scheme, because the Philippine National Police (PNP) is training some forces for anti-sparrow operations.
It is a fact that President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month warned our soldiery against the possible resurgence of the Sparrow unit, following the termination of peace talks with communist rebels last year.
For his part, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced that the PNP has formed a group of “seasoned retired police officers” to train PNP field personnel for “anti-sparrow” operations.
This development should be viewed along with the real gains that are being made by government forces in their renewed operations to stop the communist insurgency and ensure public safety and national security.
On Saturday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that 28 leaders of the CPP-NPA have surrendered to security forces, and that it had seized 51 NPA camps across the country during the first quarter of 2018.
The most number of NPA surrenderees is seen in the Eastern Mindanao Command, accounting for 17 ranking leaders of the communist rebel group.
A military spokesman said: “The spike in the number of rebels who are surrendering can be attributed to the government’s sincere efforts to help former rebels reintegrate with their communities and families, particularly through the efforts of the local government units [LGU], the AFP and the PNP.
Thirty-eight of the NPA camps seized were in Eastern Mindanao, two in Western Mindanao, seven in the Visayas and four in Luzon.
It is also reassuring to know that our security forces (both military and police) are implementing appropriate security measures to fully secure the country during the observance of Lent.
“There is no specific threat monitored for the Holy Week but the AFP will not put its guard down. We will continue to conduct appropriate security measures where needed to safeguard vulnerable communities,” an AFP spokesperson said in a statement.
The military will be ready to make appropriate deployment when and where the need arises, he said, adding, “There will always be a gap that criminals and terrorists will take advantage of.”
Meanwhile, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will deploy 11,800 policemen all over Metro Manila in connection with the Lenten observance.
Police authorities will use deliberate, sustained police operations such as checkpoints, mobile and beat patrols supported by scientific crime reporting from the Community Precincts to the stations, to the districts up to the NCRPO headquarters.
NCRPO director Oscar Albayalde said more police personnel would be dispatched to ensure law and order is maintained in bus terminals, airports and seaports and other crowded places, such as shopping malls and other commercial establishments in Metro Manila.
“Aside from areas of public convergence, our policemen are also tasked to conduct patrols around communities to prevent burglars from entering houses left by families on vacation,” he said.
Albayalde also enjoined families on vacation to secure their respective homes, unplug electrical appliances and make sure that all points of entry are locked.
The NCRPO chief said there might be a lull in the anti-drugs operations during the holiday period, but policemen would still be on standby for emergency operations.
All these preparations are as things should be.
Lent is a sacred time in our country. Nothing should be spared to ensure that we keep the peace and sustain the tranquility of life.