Govt girds for attacks as Joma hints at war

By Joyce Pangco Pañares and Florante S. Solmerin

AFP, NSA dread backlash; Sison sees ‘people’s war’

THE government is bracing for retaliatory attacks from communist rebels following the arrest of the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines  Benito Tiamzon  and his wife Wilma Austria in Cebu Saturday.

National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said the party’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, is also expected to launch more offensives to mark its anniversary on March 29.

Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the military remained on red alert and expected a communist backlash.

In custody. Captured communist leaders Benito
and Wilma Tiamzon show defiance as they and five
other members of the CPP/NPA arrive in Camp
Crame for processing. Manny Palmero
“We are expecting that in the coming days,” he said.

Government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla acknowledged that the security situation would become more serious as the communist group closes ranks after the arrest of its top two leaders.

CPP founder  Jose Ma. Sison said “the CPP and NPA rank and file are more likely to intensify the people’s war.”

Sison said “my arrest in 1977 did  not stop the people’s war because the root causes of the armed conflict continued. Oppression and exploitation of the people continue,” he told the MST in an online interview.

He said the  Aquino regime has been violating an agreement by arresting and imprisoning NDFP consultants who are protected by a joint agreement. “The arrest of Tiamzon and Austria might be the last straw. The Aquino regime is killing the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

But Garcia thought otherwise. “The arrest of the Tiamzon couple is a very big blow to the leadership of the CPP. There will be a leadership vacuum, but only for a while.”

Garcia said in a phone interview “they will likely re-consolidate and resolve factionalism within in favor of one faction.”

Padilla said Tiamzon’s successor, being younger and needing to prove his or her leadership, would likely respond with more attacks.

“The next echelon of leaders are a generation apart -- in their 40s to 50s. So it might be a little worse before it gets better,” Padilla said.

“There might be more violence to show nothing has changed within their ranks,” he added.

But a well-placed source in the intelligence community said the next CPP chairman could very well be one of the communist leaders who was previously arrested and eventually released for various reasons.

`Among the CPP-NPA leaders who were recently released were Maria Luisa Pucray, Jaime Soledad, Jovencio Balweg, Angelina Ipong, Glicerio Pernia, and Ericson Acosta.

`Pucray and Pernia have since returned underground.

`National Democratic Front Mindanao spokesman Jorge Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, is also a possible successor. He has a P5.6 million bounty on his head.

`Among the high-ranking communist leaders who are still detained are Tirso Alcantara, Alan Jazmines, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza, Pedro Codaste, Alfredo Mapano, Eduardo Sarmiento, Paterno Opo, Dario Tomada, and Marilyn Badayos-Condes.

Pesidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Armed Forces will be vigilant against possible retaliatory moves from the CPP-NPA.

“We are always fully aware of the possibility of retaliation, and our Armed Forces are always to defend the population,” Lacierda said.

Bautista said the arrest of the Tiamzons was a victory for the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.

“We will 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,” he said in a statement.

By the military’s estimate, the Maoist-inspired 45-year-old communist rebellion, the longest in Asia, has claimed 30,000 lives.

“The New People’s Army is down to about 4,000 guerrillas from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s,” Bautista said.

But in its 45th anniversary statement, the CCP claimed the number of full-time NPA fighters had risen to more than 10,000.

In a statement, the CPP said the Tiamzons and their companions were in Cebu monitoring the rehabilitation work of the CPP-NPA in the Visayas when they were arrested.

A separate statement from NDFP chief Luis Jalandoni condemned the arrest as illegal because he said the Tiamzons and the five others were all peace consultants of the NDFP.

But the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process dismissed Jalandoni’s claim and said the rebels were not covered by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees.

Bautista declined to comment on the issue.

“Any legal questions on the arrest and processing of the apprehended individuals will be answered by the Department of Justice including applicability of JASIG to their arrest,” he said.

He added, however, that the presidential adviser on the peace process said the guarantees were not applicable to Tiamzon’s wife because she jumped bail in 1989. He also said that the multiple murder charges against the couple were in relation to the killing of 15 civilians in Inopacan, Leyte, who were discovered in a mass grave in 2006.

“Tiamzon was then the Secretary of the Eastern Visayas Regional Committee when they murdered the civilians,” Bautista said.

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