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Tiamzons were under surveillance for 2 months

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Tiamzons were under surveillance for 2 months

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife, the party’s secretary general Wilma Tiamzon. Photo by Nikko Dizon/INQUIRER

MANILA, Philippines—Complacency may have led to the capture of spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, chair and finance chief of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), respectively.

The Tiamzons didn’t realize that they had been under surveillance by military intelligence operatives in Cebu for two months, according to military and police sources who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to issue a statement.

“They were hiding in plain sight,” one source said. “They didn’t know that their movements were being monitored.”

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He told the Inquirer that the couple might have thought that no one would look for them in Cebu, which had been declared insurgent-free.

On Saturday, the source said the couple were spotted in Barangay (village) Valencia, Carcar City, 42 kilometers south of Cebu City.

The Tiamzons, along with five others, boarded separate vehicles—a Hyundai Starex and a Toyota Innova—and were heading to Aloguinsan town, about 60 km southwest of the city.

Little did the couple know that a joint police and military team had already set up a checkpoint in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan, to intercept them, another source said.

Among those involved in the operation were the Intelligence Security Group, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp), the Philippine Army, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Carcar police.

Sources said that since there was a roadblock, the two vehicles were forced to stop at the checkpoint.

The couple were immediately arrested since the lawmen had copies of the arrest warrants issued by the Regional Trial Court in Northern Samar for murder and frustrated murder, the sources said.

The sources said the couple and five others were taken to Camp Lapu-Lapu, the Armed Forces Central Command headquarters in Barangay Lahug in Cebu City, where they underwent tactical interrogation.

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The rebels were transferred to Manila on a chartered plane on Sunday.

The communist insurgency has fallen into a huge leadership vacuum with the fall of Tiamzon and his wife, according to the military.

“We hope that they realize that their primary leader, their advocate for armed struggle, Benito Tiamzon, has been arrested and I hope the rest of the leadership of the CPP-NPA will now come to grips with reality,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said at a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo on Sunday.

Bautista described Tiamzon, who turned 63 on March 20, as the one who “directs the armed struggle all over the country, who directs all the landmining, the killings, the violence perpetrated by the New People’s Army.”

A military assessment report furnished the Inquirer described Tiamzon “as the true center of gravity behind the CPP-NPA” and not CPP founding chair Jose Ma. Sison.

“There exists a widely reported disagreement between Jose Ma. Sison and Benito Tiamzon particularly on issues pertaining to peace talks and with regard to strategy and tactics of the NPA. Tiamzon reportedly does not seriously consider the directives coming from Sison and usually acts on his own with the CPP and NPA at his ready disposal. This solidifies his status as the true center of gravity behind the CPP-NPA and not Sison.

“With the capture of Benito Tiamzon and his wife, the NPA will suffer a leadership vacuum that will eventually spell doom for their organization,” the military report said.

Major Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Isafp, said that it would take the CPP-NPA some six months to find a replacement for Tiamzon.

“With the arrest of the Tiamzon couple, it would take a plenum before they can be replaced. The CPP practices collective leadership. They would have to summon all members from all over the country and hold an election on who would be the next chairman,” Año told reporters after Bautista’s press conference.

Año said that without Tiamzon, the CPP-NPA would have “lack of direction” on the ground.

“Unlike before when he would send only one e-mail to give instructions to all regions. Now, no one can do that. They are disorganized. They have to wait until the plenum. Now, even Joma and the others would have to meet. It would take a while,” he said.

Originally posted: 8:18 pm | Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

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TAGS: Armed conflict, arrest, Benito Tiamzon, Communist Party of the Philippines, communist rebellion, Edre Olalia, Insurgency, JASIG, Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, Karapatan, Military, New People's Army, News, peace negotiations, peace process, Peace Talks, rebellion, Regions, Wilma Austria
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