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MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) on Tuesday, December 25, was captured in the midst of the “longest Christmas truce” between the Philippine military and the communist group.
A team composed of military and police forces nabbed Filemon Mendrez — the 6th most wanted man in the country with a P5.25M bounty on his head — at 10:30 am Tuesday in Brgy Tubod, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, Army spokesman Col Harold Cabunoc said.
Mendrez, a key New People’s Army rebel leader, will be held without bail and is due to stand trial, an army statement said, but details on the criminal cases against him were not disclosed.
The interior ministry had placed a 5.25 million peso ($128,000) bounty on his head, it added.
Major General Jose Mabanta, the army chief of the central Philippines, described the arrest as a “law enforcement” action that had no bearing on the peace negotiations and the Christmas truce, which began last week.
“Law enforcement operations shall continue even as we observe a suspension of offensive military operations and ceasefire. This is part of (the army’s job) of protecting communities, government and private establishments,” he added.
Citing reports from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office, Col Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Army Brigade, said Mendrez is facing charges for robbery and rebellion. He is now in police custody.
Mendrez, also known as “Tatay” and “Edon,” was the Deputy Secretary of the Central Visayas Regional Party Committe, and the current leader of the NPA’s Regional Strike Force, KR-N at Brgy Sacsac, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental.
“He led the successful violent attacks both in the Central Visayas and Negros province,” Cabunoc said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines at first declared a ceasefire from Dec. 16 until Jan. 2, 2013. But it was moved to Dec. 20 to Jan.15, 2013 as a result of last week’s “special track” talks in The Hague between the respective peace panels of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the NPA’s political arm.
On the other hand, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered the NPA to halt offensive operations from Dec. 20 to Jan. 15, 2013.
The “special track” means the offer of alliance and truce from the NDF to the government, Luis Jalandoni, the rebels’ chief negotiator, said in a previous statement.
Jalandoni said a truce would be declared on the basis that both sides would form a “Committee of National Unity, Peace and Development” to implement agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization.
The communist insurgency in the Philippines is the longest running in Asia. – Rappler.com