MANILA, Philippines – Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison recalled how he and wife Julie were arrested in 1977. The party was not crippled then, he said. In the same way, Sison said that the arrest of Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma Austria will not cripple the armed struggle now. (READ: CPP chief, wife nabbed in Cebu – military)
“Benny Tiamzon and Wilma Austria will be replaced automatically by comrades. To use basketball parlance, I say the CPP has a deep bench. The Central Committee is replenished and further strengthened by the increasing number of national cadres as well as regional cadres from some 17 regions,” Sison said in an interview with Liberation International, the publication of the CPP’s political wing, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
This is not the way the military sees it. Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista said Tiamzon’s arrest will result in a “vacuum in leadership” that “will be felt” by the organization. He called on the members of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to surrender.
President Benigno Aquino III also said the Tiamzons’ arrest delivers “a serious blow” to the CPP. (READ: Aquino: Tiamzons’ arrest a serious blow to rebels)
The military sees Tiamzon as the “center of gravity of the CPP-NPA-NDF here in the Philippines as the acting chairman in lieu of Jose Maria Sison who is in Utrecht as Chairman Emeritus.” The military holds Tiamzon responsible for “the landmining, the killings, and the violence of the NPA.”
Military intelligence chief Major General Eduardo Año said “it only takes one email from Tiamzon to give direction to all regions.” He said it would take the CPP at least 6 months to convene a plenum and elect the replacement of Tiamzon.
The government also claims it is Tiamzon who is blocking peace talks between the CPP and the government. It was supposedly Tiamzon who prevailed upon Sison to renege on his earlier commitment to a “special track” that would have fast-tracked the peace process. Sison denied this government narration as “malicious intrigue.” (READ: Benito Tiamzon: Writer, organizer, party man)
The military’s statements drew taunts from the CPP, however.
“The CPP dismissed as hallucinations the claims by the armed forces that the recent arrest of CPP leaders and peace consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria spells doom for the armed struggle being waged by the NPA,” the CPP said in a statement posted on its website on Monday, March 24.
CPP singled out the AFP chief.
“AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista is self-delusional in believing that NPA Red fighters and revolutionaries would respond to his calls for them to surrender to the Aquino regime,” it added.
The CPP maintains that the armed struggle will continue because of the “AFP’s brutalities and widespread abuses.”
“With such deep-rooted causes for the armed conflict, the Aquino regime and the AFP are indeed hallucinating if they believe that the Tiamzons’ arrest will cause the armed struggle to dissipate,” it said.
The CPP claims it has 150,000 “dedicated cadres” in more than 110 front committees nationwide. Military estimates put their number down 4,000.
The CPP continues to demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Tiamzon couple. They are supposed to be covered by immunity because they are consultants of the NDFP, Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the NDFP in peace talks with the government said. (READ: Nat’l Democratic Front condemns arrest of Tiamzon couple)
Chief government negotiator Alex Padilla refuted this, saying, the verification process in 2012 failed because the NDFP failed to submit a list of the aliases and photos of “underground” personalities who are participating in the peace process. – Rappler.com