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NPA Loses Key Leader

New People’s Army (NPA) Commander Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal passed away last June 22 due to heart attack, the Communist Party of the Philippines has announced in a belated statement.

Rosal served as head of the Melito Glor Command in Southern Luzon and secretary of the Banahaw-Sierra Madre Guerilla Front Party Committee. He also served as NPA spokesperson for the longest time, making him the face of communist insurgency in the Philippines. The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside for more than four decades.

Reports about Rosal’s illness has surfaced as early as 2007 and his death as early as last year. The NPA has always denied these. The CPP said the belated announcement was due to difficulties in first informing his next of kin who, it said, were in highly militarized areas.

The reasons behind the belated announcement may have been more likely because of the rebels’ morale. News of Rosal’s death may lower the morale of their ground troops.

At the same time, the rebels want to have some leverage with the government. Rosal’s death was announced the same day the rebels freed Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Henry Dano and his two escorts. It could also have been undertaken to gain public sympathy. Rosal’s death was announced after Malacanang expressed unwillingness to engage in peace talks after three mining companies in Surigao del Norte were attacked.

Observers are awaiting who will fill the shoes of Rosal as NPA spokesperson. Whoever succeeds him will be the new face of the rebel group and will surely reflect on NPA’s new direction.