CPP chief, wife nabbed in Cebu – military
MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Two top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were arrested in Cebu on Saturday, March 22, over standing warrants of arrest for crimes against humanity, including murder, multiple murder, and frustrated murder charges.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista said in a statement that military and police teams arrested Benito Tiamzon, chairman of the CPP-New People's Army (NPA), and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, CPP-NPA secretary-general, in Barangay Zaragosa, Alouguinsan, Cebu.
The Tiamzon couple was arrested along with 5 others while the group was on board a Starex van and a Toyota Innova.
They were brought to the Armed Forces of the Philippines central command headquarters in Lapu-Lapu for processing and documentation.
In a statement issued Saturday night, Bautista said:
"At 3:15 pm of March 22, 2014, the AFP and the PNP arrested high-ranking NPA leaders Wilma and Benito Tiamzon at Bgy. Zaragosa, Alouguinsan, Cebu. Wilma Tiamzon is the Secretary General of the CPP/NPA, while her husband, Benito, is the Chairman of the CPP/NPA. They were arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for their crimes against humanity that include murder, multiple murders, and frustrated murder. They are currently undergoing processing and documentation for legal disposition.The arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon is another victory for the combined efforts between the AFP, PNP and other stakeholders in pursuit of peace and security. We will then continue to strengthen our resolve to bring other criminals to justice in honor of the victims of the violence perpetrated by the CPP-NPA, and in honor of our people who deserve to live in a peaceful and developed society. We call on the rest of the CPP-NPA members to lay down their arms, abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families and join us in bringing peace and development to our nation."
They were the high-profile fugitives that President Benigno Aquino III earlier said would soon fall into the hands of authorities, a Cebu-based police source said.
Subject of surveillance
A senior government source told Rappler the Tiamzons have been the subject of intense surveillance since the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan), when they were monitored in Leyte.
"They have been in and out of Leyte since December, at the height of relief operations for Yolanda," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Benito Tiamzon joined the communist movement in 1969 but was arrested in 1972 after the declaration of martial law, according to intelligence reports. He eventually escaped from jail and rose in the party hierarchy, assuming key party positions in the Metro Manila-Rizal regional party committee and Eastern Samar, one of the former strongholds of the CPP.
It was in Eastern Samar where Tiamzon underwent guerrilla training, according to the same intelligence reports.
Tiamzon officially assumed the post of chairman of the CPP in the 1990s after a bloody party split that caused a decline in rebel strength.