Resurgent Marxist Rebels Pose Big Threat; Arroyo's Forces Targeted 335 Times This Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Arnaud de Borchgrave, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

MANILA - New People's Army rebels attacked government forces 335 times in the first nine months of this year, making the Marxist-led movement a greater threat in the eyes of Philippine intelligence chiefs than al Qaeda and its local allies.

Police have suffered 72 killed and 380 wounded during that period while the army is averaging one soldier killed every day by the resurgent NPA.

Targets have ranged from communications sites to police stations and local mayoral offices, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said in an interview. The rebels have also destroyed scores of construction and agricultural machines and equipment.

The NPA gets political support from eight members of Congress who are split among three neo-Marxist political parties.

Speaker of the House Jose de Venecia said in an interview that he believes he has persuaded the eight pro-NPA members not to walk out or shout insults as they had planned to do during President Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow.

Mr. de Venecia also was optimistic that recent peace talks with NPA leader Jose Maria Sison in Norway will produce results within six to nine months. But veteran military and intelligence chiefs are much less hopeful about the on-and-off peace talks, which have been under way for several years.

Mr. Sison, 60 and charismatic, lives in the Netherlands with his Dutch wife.

The NPA is the world's oldest guerrilla group, having started out fighting the Japanese occupation during World War II. Since 1965, its orientation has been Maoist.

Philippine officials say the NPA's 11,000 guerrillas are present in about 70 percent of the country, a vast archipelago spanning 7,000 islands. It uses encrypted e-mail and satellite phones and other sophisticated equipment, almost all of it stolen from army and police forces. …