Top communist leader captured
A top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was captured by members of the Philippine Army, Cavite police and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Monday night in Bacoor City, Cavite province.
Adelberto Silva was arrested along with his wife, Sharon Ronquillo Cabusao, and Isidro de Lima at 11:10 p.m. in a rented apartment in Barangay (village) Molino 5 by virtue of a warrant of arrest for 15 counts of murder issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 18 of Hilangos, Leyte province.
Silva had been living at his hideout in Bacoor for a year and had posed as a businessman, according to a police report.
Supt. Rommel Estolano, Bacoor police chief, said in the report that Silva was a member of the CPP Central Committee and headed the party’s National Organization Department.
The CIDG, in its Twitter account, identified Silva as the secretary general of the CPP, while a military statement said he was considered the “highest ranking” leader of the CPP and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA).
Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, the military spokesman, said the low-profile Silva took over the CPP-NPA leadership after the arrest of CPP chair Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Tiamzon, the party’s secretary general, in Cebu province in March last year.
“He is the overall orchestrator of rebel movements in the entire country. He organizes the activities of the rebels,” Kakilala told Agence France-Presse.
“This (arrest) will have a huge impact. This will disrupt their strategic direction and programs,” he added.
The CPP and the NPA have been waging war against the government for the past 46 years in what has been considered the world’s longest-running Maoist-inspired rebellion. Talks to end the fighting have stalled.
From a peak of more than 26,000 in the late 1980s, the NPA strength has dwindled to 4,000 fighters, according to the military.
Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., the Armed Forces chief of staff, was pleased with the arrests and commended both the military and police teams for the successful joint operation.
“This victory against criminality is attributed to the concerted efforts of the military, Philippine National Police and other stakeholders in our common pursuit for peace. This accomplishment is for the innocent people who are victimized by the NPA’s senseless violence,” he said.
Silva, who is believed to be “in his 60s and was already taking some maintenance medicines,” did not resist arrest, said a police source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the case.
“He denied (he was Silva). But we found several IDs that showed pictures of the same person,” said the police source.
Recovered from Silva were three rifle grenades, documents, improvised bomb components and several electronic devices.
The authorities conducted an inventory of the seized items in the presence of village officials.
On Tuesday afternoon, Silva and his two companions underwent inquest proceedings in a court in Bacoor although they will be detained at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Good intelligence work and a little help from neighbors led to the capture of the highest CPP-NPA leader, said a military source.
The source, who asked not to be named, told the Inquirer that an informant had tipped off the military that Silva was renting a house with his wife in Bacoor.
“With the arrest of the Tiamzon couple in March last year, the military intelligence started working on their possible successor in the CPP-NPA and it was Silva. Immediately, surveillance was conducted, which lasted for six months,” the source said.
Asked about the impact of Silva’s arrest on the CPP-NPA, the source said the CPP organizational structure was in disarray with the capture and death of their top cadres.
Trial for Leyte killings
Silva will stand trial for the murder of 15 people whose remains were recovered from a mass grave in Leyte in 1985, the military said.
Earlier this month, ranking CPP-NPA leaders were arraigned at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 for 15 counts of murder in connection with the killings in Inopacan, Leyte.
Among those arraigned were the Tiamzon couple, Satur Ocampo, Vicente Ladlad, Randal Echanis and Rafael Baylosis.
The Tiamzons refused to enter pleas at their trial last month for the same killings, so the court entered “not guilty” pleas on their behalf.
The killings in Inopacan were allegedly an attempt by the CPP-NPA to purge its ranks of suspected military “deep penetration agents,” the military said.
The NPA tried suspected military informants using “kangaroo courts,” leading to the summary execution of several suspects, including those from Sapang Dako village in Inopacan town, according to the military.
The communist rebellion has claimed about 40,000 lives by official estimates.
Peace negotiations have been stalled since 2004, with both parties adamant in pushing for their respective preconditions before the start of the negotiations.
The last breakdown of the talks occurred in February 2013.
Last December, Jose Maria Sison, the CPP founder, said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government might resume talks probably after Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January.
Sison, who is in exile in the Netherlands, is the chief political consultant of the NDFP, the political arm of the CPP that had been engaged in peace talks with the government.
Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, said last December that both parties were amenable to returning to the negotiating table to end more than four decades of communist insurgency.
Since then, nothing has been heard about the resumption of peace talks between the NDFP and the government.–With a report from AFP