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IT WAS bad intelligence that killed the three young policemen whose team was ambushed while escorting a government official along the highway in a remote town in Camarines Sur. Or the lack of precautionary measure, or simply incompetence on the part of their superior officers that allowed such police caravan to send off FDA Director General Nela Charade Puno last Oct. 18 to the nearby province of Camarines Norte via an unsecured route in an unsecured time.

Those killed in the ambush were young policemen aged 24 to 27, one of them still single whose pay envelope he used to remit to her mother for basic expenses at home. And those of the five wounded, at least two were young women, also in their 20s, who chose to enlist in the police force because of its relatively higher salary than what a classroom teacher or nurse gets.

So young their lives were wasted by a nasty war waged by adults who thought peace and progress can be attained through the barrel of the gun.

And why should their officers send inexperienced junior police officers to escort a caravan that had to cross a highway that was built out of a virtual forest, notoriously known to be a natural route or refuge for armed rebels? And worse, the aggressors had no way of determining that the police escorts were so young to die in a lopsided firefight even as their own combatants may have been youthful fighters themselves. Indeed, in any armed conflict, untrained bullets by inexperienced recruits are as deadly as those fired by seasoned combatants.

Now, didn’t the intelligence funds of both the police and the military were raised several folds for the government to win the war against insurgency and crime?

And what does this series of ambushes and clashes that took place in our own backyards these last few days prove? That the election season is in the air and it is time for the cash-starved rebels to instill fear and extort money from those candidates wanting to campaign in the so-called rebel-infested territories. We thought the military told us that the enemy’s force has been dwindling and that the government is about to win the war. Couldn’t they at least imagine that keeping an armed force to kill fellow Filipinos is becoming too expensive, draining much of our budget that should otherwise be used for economic development?

Even as early as two years ago, the military has been releasing conflicting data about the rebels’ true strength. Security officials claimed that all reports and figures they release to the public were carefully validated and based on intelligence reports. The numbers ranged from 3,200 to 4,443 armed rebels since 2015.

Are the bulk of this rebel force concentrated in Bicol that they can stage ambushes and firefight in opposite spots in just few days apart as the recent incidents show? And where is the AFP modernization program that they were talking about? The rebels seem to be better trained than our salaried soldiers, as casualties of these clashes show.

But here are some basic facts: The insurgent NPA for some 44 years now has been waging a Maoist rebellion that has become obsolete in the country where it originated. Because of the war, more than 30,000 people have so far died in the conflict. At its peak in the late 1980s, the guerilla strength was estimated to be more than 26,000. Today, it cannot be more than 6,000, many analysts believe. This, while the AFP force, including the police, have more than doubled.

Meanwhile, the country remains poor and many of its people are starving because of the wrong war that our leaders on both sides of the conflict are fighting. Like politics, the devastations it has wrought are becoming uglier and irreparable.

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