Manila: Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana refuted allegations that the government has been lying on the number of insurgents who surrendered, saying that the increasing number of rebels giving up is proof of demoralisation in its ranks.

Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it has recorded 4,356 regular members and supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered nationwide from January 1 to March 15, 2018. However, the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) said there is no truth to this assertion.

“The CPP denial of the massive surrenders of their armed rebel fighters is a manifestation of their desperation and futile attempt to discredit government efforts to secure peace,” Lorenzana said adding that the half a century old insurgency movement, the CPP-NPA, is already desperate on how it can reverse the haemorrhaging of fighters from its ranks.

“Because of the government’s sincere call for peace, they have lost a lot of fighters lately, and their mass base has rapidly dwindled. Labelling everything that the government has achieved so far as a mere hoax manifests desperation and is obviously a futile attempt to discredit our efforts in forging peace,” Lorenzana said.

The NPA marks its 50th year on Monday and despite fighting to establish a communist regime for that long, the movement is nowhere close to achieving its goal of independence from foreign intervention and egalitarian society.

The CPP said that the Defence Secretary was not giving the true figures on the number of rebels who had surrendered.

“Over the past few months, (President Rodrigo) Duterte himself and the entire military and defence establishment have spent hundreds of millions of pesos to stage Malacañang dinners with the president, tours around Luneta and other cheap gimmickry. The bigger portion of the monies, of course, line the pockets of armed forces field officials,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP said the government is bloating the number of fighters who had surrendered.

“If we are to believe claims made by officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the end of 2017 that the NPA is down to 3,700 members, then by simple subtraction, one can conclude that the AFP under Duterte has already accomplished what the previous regimes have failed to do: defeat the NPA,” it asserted.

The government, in the past, had said that the number of insurgents was down to some 4,500 rebels.

But Lorenzana said the numbers recorded by the military was not just the regular armed fighters, but also included sympathisers.

According to the AFP, out of the 4,356 insurgents who were recorded to have surrendered, only 626 are NPA regulars and local party members. The rest 3,730 are part-time guerrillas under the people’s militia and underground mass organisations and supporters

The majority of surrenders occurred in eastern Mindanao, particularly in the regions of Davao and Caraga, totalling 97 per cent or 4,194.

Lorenzana, for his part, said: “How can the CPP claim that most of those who surrendered are not NPA fighters but supporters and even demand a public apology from the AFP when in fact, these former rebels who responded to the government’s call for peace include their former rebels in ranking position who surrendered with their firearms? The CPP-NPA should apologise to these people whom they have deceived, and who have sacrificed their lives and their families because of this deception.”

The 50 year-old rebellion had stunted economic growth in remote areas of the country.