CPP chief, wife nabbed in Cebu – military

Rappler.com
(4th UPDATE) Until his arrest, Benito Tiamzon was the chairman of the CPP-NPA, according to the military

REBEL TROOPS. Picture dated 29 March 2002 shows NPA guerrillas at a clandestine assembly in the Cordillera region in northern Philippines. File photo by Agence France-Presse

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. 

However, he was believed to have lost control of the leadership after the 2010 presidential elections. There were squabbles regarding the movement’s involvement in that election, veteran intelligence officers told Rappler. But the military hierarchy insisted Saturday that he was still the chairman when they arrested him.

The guerrillas have been waging a protracted war for 4 decades now, reaching a peak of about 20,000 armed members under the administation of the late President Corazon Aquino. The split in the 1990s over ideological differences led to the creation of at least two major factions within the party, the so-called “reaffirmists” – or those who remained with the party and loyal to its founding chairman who lives in exile in Utrecht, Jose Maria Sison – and the so-called “rejectionists” – or those who questioned Sison’s alleged dogmatism and left the movement to form other groups.
 
 
Hardline position
 

Tiamzon, as senior party leader, was known to have taken a hardline position on the peace process with the Aquino government.

Last year, Sison expressed willingness to modify some of the conditions set by the CPP and the NDF, paving the way for some progress in the talks and backchannel negotiations between Sison and Secretary Ronald Llamas, the president’s political adviser. (READ: Joma wants peace, the ‘ground’ doesn’t – Padilla)

But in the latter part of 2013, the NDF again reverted to its conditions – such as land reform – leading to the collapse of the process. Rappler.com

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