Thoughts on the arrest

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Monday, March 24, 2014

BENITO Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon were arrested by military and police elements while in a group riding two vans in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan town in Cebu province. The military claimed Benito is Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman while Wilma is the party’s secretary general.

In instances like this, the bragging rights are always with the government, while the CPP is being put on the defensive. But in the exchange of words, objectivity is sometimes lost. Some interesting points:

--If Benito is really the chairman and Wilma the secretary-general, then government forces arrested the two top officials of the CPP. The chairman is the party head while the secretary-general runs the day-to-day affairs of the party.


But while their arrest is a “big blow” to the rebels, I do not think it would decapitate the CPP. The party is composed of collectives or groups of leaders from top to bottom. The Tiamzons are but members of the Central Committee, the highest governing body, and even of its smaller standing committee, the politburo. So the others can take over.

--I initially thought the Tiamzons were merely on transit for another destination, say Negros island. But reports say they stayed in a house somewhere in San Fernando town in Cebu that they rented since January last year. Now, that is surprising considering that the mass base of the CPP in Cebu is thin.

And what are they staying in Cebu a long time for? Are the two still active in the CPP? If so, in what capacity really?

--The National Democratic Front (NDF), through Luis Jalandoni, claimed that the Tiamzons are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (Jasig) signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDF in 1995. The NDF represents all the CPP-aligned rebel groups in the long-running peace talks with the government.

Benito is supposed to be “Crising Banaag,” who was among those given immunity guarantee for the duration of the talks. Wilma carried his real name in the Jasig document as claimed by the NDF. But having an alias in the peace talks can be tricky.

I take it that the GPH, now being represented by the administration of Noynoy Aquino, demanded in 2011 that real names be provided to it instead. The NDF reportedly didn’t do that.

But I understand where the NDF is coming from. In late 1986 and early 1987, the NDF engaged in localized peace talks with the government of Corazon Aquino, PNoy’s mother.

Negotiators in various provinces surfaced. When talks bogged down, the military already had gathered reams of information about underground personalities nationwide, which it used in the heightened counter-insurgency operation later on.

When talks resumed in the mid-‘90s under the administration of Fidel Ramos, the NDF made sure it would not commit the same error again, thus the insistence on using assumed names for Jasig documents.

--What will happen to the stalled peace talks? First off, the arrest shows that immunity to arrest is no longer guaranteed by the Aquino administration to NDF peace talks consultants. But even before the arrests, the NDF and the CPP already announced they would no longer engage in such talks as long as Aquino is president.

So the peace talks are basically dead. I see their resumption under a new president or once the younger generation of CPP leaders take over, or if both happens.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 25, 2014.


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