CPP-NPA leaders arrested in Cebu

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

CEBU (Updated) - Two leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) were arrested in Cebu province Saturday afternoon, the military said.

Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, chairman and secretary general, respectively, of the CPP-NPA, were picked up in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan around 3:15 p.m., said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista. (Other initial reports, however, said the arrest was in Carcar.)

He said there was a warrant for the couple's arrest for "crimes against humanity" that include murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder cases in Northern Samar.

In a statement, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned what it described as an illegal arrest.

"Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria are NDFP consultants who have fulfilled and are fulfilling highly significant tasks in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP," said Luis G. Jalandoni, chair of the NDFP negotiating panel.

He said that both Tiamzon and Austria had been issued safe-conduct passes under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) while the peace negotiations continue.

The AFP said the arrest was "another victory for the combined efforts between the AFP, Philippine National Police 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," Bautista said.

He called on the rest of the CPP-NPA to lay down their arms, "abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families, and join the government in bringing peace and development."

The NDFP, however, said that Austria had a letter of acknowledgment from then Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III, which states: "The above-named person is entitled to the safety and immunity guarantees as provided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the duration of the peace negotiations. You are hereby required to facilitate the safe conduct and free passage of the above named person."

Jalandoni also said that Tiamzon had a similar document under his assumed name, Crising Banaag.

"This latest flagrant violation of the JASIG by the Aquino regime, in addition to so many other gross violations of the JASIG, most seriously prejudices the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations," Jalandoni said. (SDR/Sunnex)

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