Combines military and police operations led to the arrest Tuesday of an alleged leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) who had a P5.25-million bounty on his head.
A statement from the Philippine Army said suspected communist rebel leader Filemon Mendrez was arrested at around 10 a.m. in Barangay (village) Tubod, Manjuyod town, in Negros Oriental.
The military said Mendrez, alias “Tatay” and “Edon,” was the leader of the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Negros.
The military recently turned over a total of P22 million in reward money to 10 informants who led the military to ranking communist leaders and Abu Sayyaf terrorist leaders.
According to the Army statement, Mendrez used to head the Front Committee 2 in Central Visayas and was the deputy head of the Central Visayas Revolutionary Party Committee of the CPP.
The military said Mendrez was arrested on a warrant issued by a court for rebellion and robbery in band.
No bail was recommended for Mendrez, the military said.
The Army said Mendrez was one of the communist leaders named on the reward list jointly released by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of National Defense last month.
The government is offering a total of P467 million for the arrest of 235 wanted leaders of the CPP, NPA, and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the umbrella organization of the communist movement in the Philippines.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) recently sent a letter to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas asking them to make the list public.
“We believe it is essential that there should be clear, verifiable and valid criteria for the inclusion of anyone [on] the list, and the same should have been publicly disclosed to ensure that only those who are validly charged and are with pending judicial warrants of arrest are included therein,” said NUPL secretary general Edre Olalia in the letter dated Dec. 11, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.
“Otherwise, we think that the list is arbitrary and will only serve as another institutionalized tool to vilify the names of those included, especially those who are not actually and validly charged in the courts. It is simply anathema to basic rules of fairness,” Olalia said.
The military identified Mendrez as one of the most wanted persons in Central Visayas.
Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said that law enforcement operations continue despite a suspension of military operations and a 27-day ceasefire declared by both the government and the NDF.
“This is part of your security forces’ [way] of protecting communities, government and private establishments. The arrest will certainly give a better opportunity for us in Central Visayas to celebrate the holidays more peacefully,” Mabanta said.
People fed up
Maj. Harold Cabunoc, Army spokesperson, expressed gratitude to the people who gave the military “reliable information” about Mendrez.
“The people are fed up [with] the abuses committed by the NPA rebels. By helping the government forces arrest these wanted persons, we will see the gradual demise of the communist insurgency,” Cabunoc said.