AQUINO: ENEMIES OF PEACE BEWARE!

He won’t let peace be “snatched” from his people again but to ensure this President Benigno Aquino III is willing to use force, as in the case of the Zamboanga City siege. “Those who want to test the resolve of the state will be met with a firm response based on righteousness and justice—as we demonstrated in Zamboanga City,” he said at the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). The tone of Aquino’s speech ran against those of the others who limited their message on the inevitable end of armed conflict in Mindanao or the challenging but optimistic future. He said it was his warning to those who want to derail the country’s path to a final and lasting peace. “So many people have suffered for so long; so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point. I will not let peace be snatched from my people again,” Aquino said. The President was referring to the violent clashes between the government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September last year that left thousands of people displaced, many of which are still in evacuation centers. On Thursday, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally signed the CAB, marking the culmination of the 17 years of peace negotiations between the two parties and the supposed end to decades of armed conflict in Mindanao. The agreement will pave the way for a new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and will address various issues in the area such as poverty.

ALSO: ‘CAB puts peace in jeopardy’ -IPC LEADER

General Santos City: President Benigno Aquino 3rd has derailed the peace process in the southern Philippines by sacrificing another Muslim group when he signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the leader of the International Police Commission (IPC) said on Sunday. Malacanang apparently was unperturbed by the accusation, with Herminio Coloma, chief of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, saying: “All stakeholders are called upon to participate in the peace and rebuilding process.”
Gen. Rafael Clarete, president of the IPC, which is recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said the President, as a result of inking the CAB last week, now risks “serious uprising and secession” from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Clarete, speaking from General Santos City in Mindanao after arriving from California also last week, added that Malacanang should have honored the peace agreement that the government signed with the MNLF on September 2, 1996 before “expediting” the CAB. The President would have no one to blame but himself “if war erupted between the MNLF and the government,” he warned. Clarete said Aquino, in signing the peace agreement with the MILF, leaves his successor the “burden of a war” that would fester for years.
The IPC president, who met with senior MNLF leaders in Mindanao last Monday, learned that the President had put aside ironing out 42 supposedly defective provisions of Republic Act 9054 and other clauses under Phase I and Phase II of the 1996 peace agreement in favor of signing the CAB. READ MORE

TIGLAO: Aquino pact violates Constitution, betrays nation

No wonder the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its people are wildly euphoric over the pact they struck with President Aquino, called the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” (CAB). News footage even showed their fully uniformed fighters raising their AK-47s and RPG launchers in the manner warriors do after a victorious battle. Unless the Supreme Court junks the agreement, or Congress refuses to be Mr. Aquino’s stamp pad, it would lead to the creation of a Moro nation-state—precisely the translation from Malay Bahasa of “Bangsamoro”— in 27 percent of Mindanao’s land area, said to be the most resource- and fossil-fuel rich part of the island. The Bangsamoro will be headed by its “Chief Minister”, almost certainly the MILF chairman. He answers to no one in the Philippine Republic but only to the 50-man “Bangsamoro Assembly,” which elects the Cabinet of Ministers, who in turn chooses the Chief. (See the Pact’s “Annex on Power Sharing”, Part Two, “Governance Structure”). In the case of the two existing autonomous regions—in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras—which the Constitution authorized, its Section 16 specifies; “The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.”  Nowhere in the entire pact and its annexes is there such a provision. In fact, nowhere in those documents is even a mention of the Philippine President—the symbol of the Republic, the head of state and government—except in the CAB, as being one of the four people in whose “presence” the pact was signed. The Bangsamoro Government is clearly a parliamentary system for the Bangsamoro — which the Constitution does not provide for. It is not even the Commission on Elections that will make sure that the voting will reflect the Moros’ genuine choice of their representatives, as the pact is completely silent on how elections for the Assembly will be undertaken. Whoever supervises the elections, what armed force will ensure clean elections for the Bangsamoro Parliament? The MILF, which will not lay down its arms and instead will be converted as the Bangsamoro’s police force, will be under the control of its Chief Minister. Paragraph 6, Part VIII of the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” reads: “All law enforcement functions shall be transferred from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the police force for the Bangsamoro. Part A, paragraph one of the Annex on Normalization stipulates: “Law Enforcement . . . in the Bangsamoro shall be the primary function of the police force for the Bangsamoro.”

ALSO: PRIZED CATCH- Communist Chief Benito Tiamzon, wife captured

Tiamzon started party work by organizing labor unions in Metro Manila under the CPP's Metro Manila-Rizal Regional Party Committee, according to various intelligence reports on him. He organized Marikina's market vendors and shoemakers, for example, as well as workers in Caloocan. Tiamzon has come a long way since. On Saturday, March 22, military and police units captured him, his wife Wima and 5 others in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan, Cebu. This is not his first arrest. Tiamzon was arrested and detained in Fort Bonifacio following the 1972 declaration of martial law by then president Ferdinand Marcos. After his escape, he remained an elusive catch who carried the aliases "Celo" and "Sencio," according to a veteran intelligence officer who thrice attempted to arrest Tiamzon and failed each time. The former CPP cadre we interviewed said Tiamzon has one distinguishing mark: he has 6 toes in one foot. The military said that at the time of his arrest on March 22, Tiamzon was the chairman of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), while his wife was the secretary-general. Party consolidation. He's more than that, however. Now 63, Tiamzon is credited for consolidating the party after it suffered its biggest split in the early 1990s. The split came about after CPP chairman-in- exile Jose Maria Sison initiated a rectification campaign that ordered cadres to return to the old principles of a protracted people's war, discouraged "adventurism" in the ranks, and slammed party leaders who wanted to fast-track the revolution by expanding in key cities and provinces. Sison's stern reminders came in the form of a 1992 party document titled, "Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors."


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Enemies of peace beware – Aquino


President Benigno Aquino III. Screengrab from PTV-4

MANILA, MARCH 31, 2014 (INQUIRER)  By Kristine Angeli Sabillo - He won’t let peace be “snatched” from his people again but to ensure this President Benigno Aquino III is willing to use force, as in the case of the Zamboanga City siege.

“Those who want to test the resolve of the state will be met with a firm response based on righteousness and justice—as we demonstrated in Zamboanga City,” he said at the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The tone of Aquino’s speech ran against those of the others who limited their message on the inevitable end of armed conflict in Mindanao or the challenging but optimistic future.

He said it was his warning to those who want to derail the country’s path to a final and lasting peace.

“So many people have suffered for so long; so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point. I will not let peace be snatched from my people again,” Aquino said.

The President was referring to the violent clashes between the government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September last year that left thousands of people displaced, many of which are still in evacuation centers.

On Thursday, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally signed the CAB, marking the culmination of the 17 years of peace negotiations between the two parties and the supposed end to decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

The agreement will pave the way for a new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and will address various issues in the area such as poverty.

The following are highlights from the two-hour event held at Malacanang grounds:

No more war – Deles

While Aquino was ready to use force against enemies of peace, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles became emotional as she looked forward to a country without conflict.

“No more war, no more children scampering for safety, no more evacuees, no more lost schooldays or school-months, no more injustice, no more misgovernance, no more poverty, no more fear and no more want. Tama na, we are all tired of it,” she said.

Deles, the presidential advisor on the peace process, painted a rosy picture of a tomorrow where “no family shall be forced to drive their children away for fear of their being maimed and wounded by conflict; and that no child has to cross a raging river and knock on a stranger’s door to beg for protection.”

Peace! Let’s celebrate, MILF tells MNLF

The MILF extended an olive branch to the MNLF whose members, especially those led by founder Nur Misuari, were said to have felt left out of the deal.

“The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is not only for the MILF it is for the MNLF as well; As much as it is for all the ethnic tribes, the Christian settlers and the indigenous peoples in the prospective Bangsamoro government territory,” MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

However, Murad said that while they recognize as a milestone the 1996 GRP –MNLF Final peace agreement, “Its inherent flaws, weaknesses…for the last 18 years must not hinder the MILF from securing for the Bangsamoro a far better negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro question.”

Murad said they are aware that the agreement will not be implemented automatically but will require the continued action of both the MILF and the Philippine government.

On the other hand, he said “the MILF does not and will never claim sole ownership to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.” He said they will only serve as gatekeepers, with the key handed over to the next leaders of the Bangsamoro, voted through democratic elections.

Malaysian PM visits PH to renew support

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak flew all the way to the Philippines amid the ongoing crisis in his country to witness the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) and to extend support to Mindanao.

“Two years ago, I promised President Aquino that Malaysia will continue to assist with development.

We are willing to help build institutions, strengthen education, improve agriculture. This promise stands for as long as it is needed. Malaysia remains a partner for peace and for development,” he said during the signing ceremony.

Malaysia is the third party facilitator to the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Najib also personally thanked the Philippines for assisting in the search efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

As a country with a predominantly Muslim population, Najib said “Malaysia is honored to have played its part in this (peace) process.”

“We wish for nothing more than peace and prosperity for our brothers and sisters in Bangsamoro and in the Philippines. This peace process has strengthened the bond of trust between our countries,” he said.

Aquino’s warning to “spoilers”

The President recalled the country and his own journey to peace, from seeking audience with the MILF to the talks in Kuala Lumpur.

He said he was looking forward to 2016 when “the MILF will have shed its identity as a military force, and transformed itself into a political entity, casting its stake in democracy by vying for seats in the Bangsamoro elections.”

However, as Aquino anticipated the challenges of pushing through with the implementation of the peace pact, he also threatened to use the full force of the state against those who might spoil the peace process.

CAB signing

With a few strokes of a pen, the Philippines made history on Thursday after its government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF panel chief Mohagher Iqbal led the signing of the five-page document that will pave the way for the Bangsamoro autonomous political entity in Mindanao.

Witnessed by Aquino, Najib and other personalities, the CAB signing marked the culmination of the 17 years of peace negotiations between the two parties and the supposed end to decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

FROM MANILA TIMES

‘CAB puts peace in jeopardy’ March 30, 2014 10:36 pm by JERRY ADLAW
CORRESPONDENT


In this file photo, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses armed followers at their camp in Indanan, Sulu.

General Santos City: President Benigno Aquino 3rd has derailed the peace process in the southern Philippines by sacrificing another Muslim group when he signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the leader of the International Police Commission (IPC) said on Sunday.

Malacanang apparently was unperturbed by the accusation, with Herminio Coloma, chief of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, saying: “All stakeholders are called upon to participate in the peace and rebuilding process.”

Gen. Rafael Clarete, president of the IPC, which is recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said the President, as a result of inking the CAB last week, now risks “serious uprising and secession” from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Clarete, speaking from General Santos City in Mindanao after arriving from California also last week, added that Malacanang should have honored the peace agreement that the government signed with the MNLF on September 2, 1996 before “expediting” the CAB.

The President would have no one to blame but himself “if war erupted between the MNLF and the government,” he warned.

Clarete said Aquino, in signing the peace agreement with the MILF, leaves his successor the “burden of a war” that would fester for years.

The IPC president, who met with senior MNLF leaders in Mindanao last Monday, learned that the President had put aside ironing out 42 supposedly defective provisions of Republic Act 9054 and other clauses under Phase I and Phase II of the 1996 peace agreement in favor of signing the CAB.

“How can you have peace in the region [Mindanao] when a large force [MNLF] is [girding] for war… that would erupt soon because the Aquino government cannot totally implement the provisions of the 1996 peace accord?” Clarete said.

The IPC leader, who flew to the Philippines to observe the signing of the CAB, said he will make a critical report to the US government that would mention the supposed discontent of the MNLF under the Aquino administration.

The President trusted the MILF too much when the group’s leaders are “not capable of handling” the Bangsamoro homeland, according to Johnny Siao, chief of the MNLF’s National Border Command forces based in Mindanao.

Henry Dazo, a retired police superintendent, agreed, saying the MILF leadership lacks “experience and leadership.”

A newly created group called Southern Philippines Tri-People Indigenous Association, which is said to be composed of 10,000 members, also on Sunday said it was supporting the MNLF’s demand that the government fulfill first the terms of the 1996 peace agreement before implementing the peace deal with the MILF.

Hotbed of insurgency

Still, Mindanao will remain a hotbed of insurgency even if CAB is implemented immediately, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This is attributed by the military to the presence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and other threat groups.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya also on Sunday disclosed that one-half of the total strength of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is concentrated in Mindanao.

The NPA, he said, is “strongest” in areas under the 4th Infantry Division and the 10th ID.

The 4th ID spokesman, Capt. Christian Uy, said their division has jurisdiction over the Northern Mindanao area, which includes the Caraga region, composed of the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao City and Butuan City.

Also under the 4th ID are Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Camiguin in Region 10 with the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Gingoog, Malaybalay and Valencia.

First Lt. Ernesto Carolina, 10th ID spokesman, said under their area of responsibility are the southernmost parts of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Sarangani, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and the easternmost part of North Cotabato.

Madlos is one of the most senior communist leaders and one of the top contenders to replace Benito Tiamzon, allegedly the CPP chairman, who was recently arrested with his wife Wilma.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the NPA is almost a spent force and would be “irrelevant” by 2016.

The military has claimed that 25 out of 81 provinces in the country are insurgency-free and that the NPA’s strength has dwindled to 4,043 from a peak of 24,430 fighters during the 1980s.

A lawmaker also warned that the establishment of the Bangsamoro homeland by 2015 would not immediately silence the guns in southern Philippines.

Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas also on Sunday said the CAB is just one step toward winning peace, noting that other security threats still exist in Mindanao.

But the people of the region, Trenas added, should not be discouraged if the law would not end the cycle of violence in a snap.

Meanwhile, he said, “Congress has more than enough time to pass the law before year-end.”

Trenas conceded that “influential groups and individuals who are against any power-sharing and wealth-sharing deal with a new Bangsamoro authority” would try to resist the implementation of the CAB.

The MILF has about 10,000 armed followers, according to the military, which makes it easily the biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines.

Having long fought for an independent homeland for the nation’s Muslim minority to be carved out of Mindanao, it split in the 1970s from the-then main rebel group, the MNLF.

The MNLF had agreed to autonomy but founding MILF leader Hashim Salamat was intent on fighting for independence.

The Bangsamoro refers to people who at the time of Spanish conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of southern Philippines. Their descendants and spouses are recognized as Bangsamoro people.

Bangsa is a local word for nation. Moro derives from the term “Moors” used by Spanish colonialists to refer to Muslims.

Under the CAB, the MILF drops its claims for a separate state in Mindanao and settles for parliamentary self-rule in the Bangsamoro autonomous region. This region will be established by 2016.

The Bangsamoro will replace another Muslim autonomous region that was brokered in the 1990s with the MNLF, which the government says has failed.

Also under the CAB, the MILF will “gradually” decommission its forces and put the weapons “beyond use.” A local police force will assume law enforcement functions from the Philippine police and military but the Philippine government will retain exclusive powers on defense, foreign policy, currency and citizenship matters.

The autonomous government will receive 75 percent of all local taxes, fees and charges, 75 percent of revenues from metallic minerals and control of fishing areas up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline.

The region will not be an Islamic state, rather a secular government. Sharia law will apply only to Muslims and only for civil cases, not for criminal offenses. All residents are guaranteed basic rights to life, movement, privacy and freedom of religion and speech.

It will cover five provinces, plus two cities, six towns and 39 villages in the South, comprising about 10 percent of the Philippines’ total land area.

Aquino is to ask Congress to pass a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” for the autonomous region by the end of this year.

People living in areas to be included in the autonomous region will need to ratify the law in a plebiscite to be held in 2015.

After the basic law is approved and ratified by the plebiscite, a 15-member “Bangsamoro Transition Authority” will govern the region until a regional parliament is elected. The President will appoint members of the transitional authority, but the MILF will have a majority and the chairman.

A regional parliament, expected to have 50 seats, is to be elected in conjunction with the national elections in May 2016. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL, REINA TOLENTINO AND AFP

Aquino pact violates Constitution, betrays nation by RIGOBERTO TIGLAO (First of Two Parts) March 30, 2014 10:21 pm


By Rigoberto Tiglao


No wonder the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its people are wildly euphoric over the pact they struck with President Aquino, called the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” (CAB). News footage even showed their fully uniformed fighters raising their AK-47s and RPG launchers in the manner warriors do after a victorious battle.

Unless the Supreme Court junks the agreement, or Congress refuses to be Mr. Aquino’s stamp pad, it would lead to the creation of a Moro nation-state—precisely the translation from Malay Bahasa of “Bangsamoro”— in 27 percent of Mindanao’s land area, said to be the most resource- and fossil-fuel rich part of the island.

The Bangsamoro will be headed by its “Chief Minister”, almost certainly the MILF chairman. He answers to no one in the Philippine Republic but only to the 50-man “Bangsamoro Assembly,” which elects the Cabinet of Ministers, who in turn chooses the Chief. (See the Pact’s “Annex on Power Sharing”, Part Two, “Governance Structure”).

In the case of the two existing autonomous regions—in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras—which the Constitution authorized, its Section 16 specifies; “The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that laws are faithfully executed.”


milf20140331

Nowhere in the entire pact and its annexes is there such a provision.

In fact, nowhere in those documents is even a mention of the Philippine President—the symbol of the Republic, the head of state and government—except in the CAB, as being one of the four people in whose “presence” the pact was signed.

The Bangsamoro Government is clearly a parliamentary system for the Bangsamoro — which the Constitution does not provide for.

It is not even the Commission on Elections that will make sure that the voting will reflect the Moros’ genuine choice of their representatives, as the pact is completely silent on how elections for the Assembly will be undertaken.

Whoever supervises the elections, what armed force will ensure clean elections for the Bangsamoro Parliament?

The MILF, which will not lay down its arms and instead will be converted as the Bangsamoro’s police force, will be under the control of its Chief Minister.

Paragraph 6, Part VIII of the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” reads: “All law enforcement functions shall be transferred from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the police force for the Bangsamoro. Part A, paragraph one of the Annex on Normalization stipulates: “Law Enforcement . . . in the Bangsamoro shall be the primary function of the police force for the Bangsamoro.”

A Bangsamoro Police brazenly violates the Philippine Constitution’s Section 6, Article XVI which categorically provides that there can be only “one police force which shall be national in scope, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission.”

Aquino’s pact with the MILF is sharp contrast to government’s 1996 Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front, BY which its fighters were integrated after strict screening as to their qualifications and a rigorous training program either into the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police.

That the MILF negotiators ran circles around Aquino’s panel is also obvious in the Normalization Annex’s Part A, Paragraph 4: “Pending the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) the Panels will create a consultative process…in the appointment, employment, and deployment of the existing police force.”

But the BTA will exist only after Congress passes the law that would implement the agreements. This means that even without that law, and even now after the CAB was signed, the MILF and government negotiators would exercise authority over the Philippine National Police operating in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.

They should have asked Aquino’s right-hand man, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, if that’s legal. Roxas would have laughed and told them that any form of authority over any unit of the PNP can be exercised only by the PNP Director General, or the Chairman of the National Police Commission (Roxas).

The creation of a Bangsamoro police is another indication that the Bangsamoro is not just an “autonomous region” but a state, which the pact even specifies has an “asymmetric” relation with the national government.

The Constitution’s requirement that there can be only one police force (and one armed forces) as students of political science will appreciate, proceeds from one necessary feature of a State, which is that it is the sole entity in a defined territory that has “the monopoly of the legitimate use of force.”

Exclude the page-long thank-you notes to those who “made” it happen (primarily and ironically the Malaysian government), the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” is a short 1,136-word document (half the length of this column). It commits government to implement the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro of 2012, together with its five “annexes”.

The document totally ignores the Constitution, as if it didn’t exist. This is even in the literal sense, as there is absolutely no mention at all of our constitution in the CAB.

It merely states how the many provisions of the agreements will be undertaken: “Working with other groups and sectors, the two parties shall ensure the establishment of a new Bangsamoro political entity.” There is even no mention of the Philippine Congress, even if it has to pass the basic Bangsamoro law to even start implementing the CAB.

Aquino’s negotiating panel committed to give the MILF its own state called Bangsamoro. This is way beyond the MILF’s wildest dreams, and even way beyond what the government agreed with the Moro National Liberation Front three decades ago. And that was at the height of the Muslim insurgency and when oil-rich Libya and other OPEC states arm-twisted the Marcos government to give in to demands of the MNLF.

And what did the government gain? Really, very little, as the MILF has not given up its arms, and won’t until the Bangsamoro actually becomes a reality on the ground.

That discussion on Wednesday, and also on why a “Bangsamoro” cannot exist in the Filipino nation-state.

* * *
The Pact’s documents (downloadable in our Internet version.)
Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro
Annex on Normalization
Annex on Power Sharing
Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing
Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities
On the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation Addendum
tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
www.trigger.ph and www.rigobertotiglao.com

FROM RAPPLER.COM

Military captured high profile Commnist leader, wife, 5 others in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan, Cebu.  BY GLENDA M. GLORIA POSTED ON 03/23/2014 3:43 PM | UPDATED 03/23/2014 7:24 PM


FALL. Alleged CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma after their arrest. Photo by Ben Nabong

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – When he studied at the University of the Philippines in 1968, Benito Tiamzon fell in love not with communism but with writing.

He wrote for the Philippine Collegian, the official student newspaper of UP Diliman, and would hang out with campus writers, recalled a former senior cadre of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) who knows Tiamzon from those years. Tiamzon eventually joined a militant student movement, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK) which, along with the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), would form the backbone of the national democratic movement during the Marcos years.

Tiamzon started party work by organizing labor unions in Metro Manila under the CPP's Metro Manila-Rizal Regional Party Committee, according to various intelligence reports on him. He organized Marikina's market vendors and shoemakers, for example, as well as workers in Caloocan.

Tiamzon has come a long way since.

On Saturday, March 22, military and police units captured him, his wife Wima and 5 others in Barangay Zaragosa, Aloguinsan, Cebu.

This is not his first arrest.

Tiamzon was arrested and detained in Fort Bonifacio following the 1972 declaration of martial law by then president Ferdinand Marcos. After his escape, he remained an elusive catch who carried the aliases "Celo" and "Sencio," according to a veteran intelligence officer who thrice attempted to arrest Tiamzon and failed each time.

The former CPP cadre we interviewed said Tiamzon has one distinguishing mark: he has 6 toes in one foot.

The military said that at the time of his arrest on March 22, Tiamzon was the chairman of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), while his wife was the secretary-general.

Party consolidation

He's more than that, however.

Now 63, Tiamzon is credited for consolidating the party after it suffered its biggest split in the early 1990s.

The split came about after CPP chairman-in- exile Jose Maria Sison initiated a rectification campaign that ordered cadres to return to the old principles of a protracted people's war, discouraged "adventurism" in the ranks, and slammed party leaders who wanted to fast-track the revolution by expanding in key cities and provinces. Sison's stern reminders came in the form of a 1992 party document titled, "Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors."

A massive purge followed, splitting the communist movement into two major factions: the so-called "Reaffirmists," who heeded Sison's back-to-basics order, and the so-called "Rejectionists," who believed that the party needed to adapt to the changing times.

As rebel units disintegrated and the movement's minted names left the CPP, the Ramos administration then declared that the communist movement was in an "irreversible decline." The government was so convinced of this that at one point, it gave the Philippine National Police (PNP) the primary role of fighting the insurgents so that the military could focus on external defense.

Tiamzon stood by the party during this difficult period and pursued the rectification campaign, intelligence officers and former CPP cadres told Rappler. "He consolidated the party after the split. He should be credited for that," a former cadre said.

True, the communist underground is no longer as formidable as it had been at its peak in the 1980s (when it had about 20,000 armed members). Robert Delfin, a veteran intelligence agent who was behind the sensational arrests of senior rebel leaders in the 1980s and 1990s, said in a previous interview: “Ang NPA ay parang bolang kristal. Kapag nabasag, hindi mo na mabubuo." (The NPA is like a crystal ball. Once it is broken, you can no longer make it whole again). (READ: Timeline of CPP-NPA arrests under Aquino)

But the communist underground has managed to bounce back in some regions, taunting authorities and regaining some political base. The military has also since taken back from the PNP the primary role of running after the guerrillas. And despite its measly number of about 3,000 armed members today, the communist movement continues to be a strategic security threat as far as the military is concerned.

Tiamzon played a key role in that rebuilding.


PRIZED CATCH. The military shows pictures of the Tiamzon couple on Sunday, March 23. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/RapplerPRIZED CATCH. The military shows pictures of the Tiamzon couple on Sunday, March 23. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

Samar experience

He first showed his organizational muscle when he was assigned in the Samar provinces in the 1970s to provide "political direction" to the NPA there, according to the former CPP cadre we interviewed.

In fact, sources told Rappler that the Tiamzon couple became vulnerable to surveillance right after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Samar-Leyte area in November 2013. They were spotted in and out of the area, according to sources.

The region became an NPA stronghold in the Marcos years due to poverty and the tactical skills of two rebel commanders during this period: Pedro Calubid and Arturo Tabara (Tabara was assassinated by the NPA, a casualty of the split).

It was Benito Tiamzon who assisted Calubid and Tabara in Samar during those years, ensuring "political development" for party organs there, the former cadre added.

In 1976, the CPP through Sison issued a crucial organizational document that set the orientation for countryside work. Many believe that Tiamzon wrote the bulk of that party document, after he studied and summed up the various organizational experiences of guerrilla bases from Isabela to Davao. He used his vast experience in Samar – and the rebels' success there – to emphasize "painstaking organizational work," recalled the former CPP cadre.

Another former CPP cadre recalled: "That was his strength…he was able to explain with clarity the various organizational challenges facing the party. In meetings, he would summarize conflicting positions and ideas. He was good at that."

In 1985, nearly a decade after the release of the party document that he helped author, the CPP suffered its worst political debacle: it decided to boycott the February 1986 snap elections called by Marcos. The elections, which Marcos won officially, triggered massive protests that led to the EDSA revolution that brought him down and catapulted Corazon Aquino to the presidency. The CPP was left sitting on the fence.

The CPP chairman then, Rodolfo Salas, took the flak for that "strategic blunder," as insiders would call it. He resigned.

Tiamzon was ripe for the position of chairman, which he would hold in an acting capacity and in between transitions. He was formally elected CPP chairman during a plenum sometime between 2004 and 2008, according to intelligence reports.

45 years

Government and military officials have been describing Tiamzon as the hardliner vis-a-vis peace talks with the Aquino government. Alex Padilla, government's chief peace negotiator, told Rappler last year that while Sison seemed open to resuming peace talks with the administration, Tiamzon had imposed difficult preconditions for the talks. (READ: Joma wants peace, the ground doesn't)

A veteran intelligence officer however said Tiamzon himself was subjected to disciplinary action over reported problems caused by the underground movement's decision to support the candidacy of businessman Manny Villar in the 2010 presidential race. But party insiders dispute this.

Whatever it is, the guerrilla army that Tiamzon once led is celebrating its 45th anniversary a week from now, on March 29 – proof of its tenacity and the persistence of conditions that had driven young men like him to rebel 4 decades ago. – Rappler.com


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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