MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday belied claims made by the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) on their 43rd founding anniversary that they are gaining strength.
AFP public affairs office chief Col. Arnulfo Burgos said that contrary to claims by the CPP-NPA that they have around 16,000 armed rebels, their strength is down to less than 5,000 armed regular rebels.
Burgos said the CPP-NPA's numbers continue to go down.
This year alone, the AFP claims to have freed 229 barangays from NPA influence, and 341 rebels were either killed in action or returned to the fold of the law.
Burgos said the CPP-NPA, to maintain its armed force, has resorted to extortion and banditry by attacking big companies that do not pay them protection money.
The AFP said it will continue to support the government's peace initiatives with the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front.
Meanwhile, the AFP leadership said it is supporting a House bill that seeks to prescribe a fixed term for the AFP chief.
The organization believes that a fixed term for the AFP chief ensures continuity of the plans and programs being implemented in the military and will ensure that its top leaders are protected from political and personal issues.