Rebel leaders captured
Benito Tiamzon, the head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and six other members of the CPP central committee were arrested on Saturday in Carcar City, south of Cebu City.
One of those arrested was Wilma, Tiamzon’s wife, who is also a top-ranked central committee member and the CPP finance officer.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed the arrest of the Tiamzons Saturday night.
“Yes, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon have been arrested. This is an Army project,” Gazmin said.
“They are now undergoing tactical interrogation,” he added.
A high-ranking military source said Tiamzon’s arrest would be a “big blow to them [the communist rebels] as he is the chair of the CPP-NPA.”
Finding the Tiamzons was “a long operation,” he said.
All seven suspects were members of the CPP central committee, he said. The five others arrested were not identified.
They were riding in two vehicles, a Starex van and a Toyota Innova, when they were arrested at about 3:15 p.m. in Barangay Aloguinsan, Carcar City, sources said.
The operation was conducted by members of 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.
The Tiamzons were served with arrest warrants for frustrated murder (criminal case 4702) and murder (criminal case number 4703) that have been pending before the Regional Trial Court Branch 31 in Laoang, Northern Samar.
The group was brought to the Armed Forces Central Command for tactical interrogation, the sources said.
They did not resist arrest, the source said.
Saturday was the 117th anniversary of the Philippine Army, which has been at the forefront of the war against the communist insurgency for more than 40 years.
All of the country’s high-ranking security officials, led by Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, were in attendance at the anniversary celebrations held early Saturday at Fort Bonifacio.
In his speech, Army Chief Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri referred to the significant gains that the Army has made in internal security operations.
Little did everyone know—or it could be that top security officials were simply being tight-lipped—that the government would catch the two biggest fish of the communist insurgent movement.
Last week, President Benigno Aquino III announced that the government would be landing another “big fish” following the arrest of fugitive housing developer Delfin Lee.
In August 2012, Mr. Aquino reiterated that the bounty for the capture of Tiamzon still stood at P5.6 million.
According to intelligence sources, Tiamzon and his wife Wilma are now the ones “in charge” in the communist hierarchy.
The couple has long been considered more influential than Jose Ma. Sison, the founder of the CPP and its political arm, the National Democratic Front, who lives in exile in the Netherlands.
Reports as of November 2012 described Tiamzon as the “top New People’s Army leader” while his wife Wilma was described as the “head of the CPP’s national finance commission.”
Tiamzon, along with another communist guerrilla leader Jorge Madlos, has a standing arrest warrant for alleged involvement in violent incidents, including attacks on civilian targets.
Sources: Inquirer Archives, pia.gov.ph
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