The arrest of ranking Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) official and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Vic Ladlad yesterday in Novaliches, Quezon City will heighten the leadership vacuum in the communist movement and serve as catalyst for the defeat of insurgency in the country, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.
Galvez added 54 prominent communist personalities have been neutralized since the assumption of President Rodrigo Duterte.
More arrests are expected, including that of CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison after Mindanao tribe leaders sought the help of Mr. Duterte to help them file charges against the CPP, its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) and Sison.
The indigenous peoples (IP) head cited “numerous atrocities and violations” committed against them in Mindanao for the charges.
Thirty-one IPs representing the Subanen, Obu-Manuvu, Bagobo-claka, Mandaya, Higaonon, Manobo-talaandig, Blaan and Tboli tribes from Regions 9-13 trooped to the Palace to denounce the extortion, exploitation and harassment of the CPP-NPA against them.
“Agusan del Norte, Surigao, Bukidnon, Davao, there are no Christians killed there. They don’t respect our culture. They don’t respect our lives,” Datu Joel Unad of Obu-Manuvu tribe told the security cluster represented by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Armed Forces Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde and Defense Undersectary Ricardo David.
“The arrest of Ladlad will disrupt internal coordination of the rebel group from the national level down to the New People’s Army (NPA) platoons,” he said.
Galvez lauded law enforcers and citizens who helped in the arrest of Ladlad. “People’s vigilance has been an important aspect of our security operations and has been valuable in the fight against terrorism,” he added.
The AFP chief also stressed the importance of cooperation in the security sector to curb terror groups and their leaders.
“The AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) in their unrelenting pursuit of peace and prosperity will be hitting them in all fronts,” Galvez said.
“The leadership vacuum led the insurgents to fall complacent, causing the stagnation and decline in their major fields of work in launching the armed struggle,” the AFP chief of staff added.
Ladlad is a member of the CPP Central Committee, head of its National United Front Commission (NUFC) aside from being a consultant in the scuttled peace negotiations.
Ladlad and his aides, Alberto and Virginia Villamor, were arrested in his alleged safehouse at Doña Tomasa Subdivision in Barangay San Bartolome, Novaliches, Quezon City early Thursday.
Ladlad is known for his involvement in the multiple murder cases for the purging of communist members who were tagged by the CPP leadership as alleged government spies in their organization.
At least 67 bodies were unearthed in September 2006 in what is now dubbed the Inopacan, Leyte massacre involving the Southern Leyte Front of the NPA.
Ladlad was among prominent names in the CPP charged with multiple counts of murder due to the massacre.
Also charged for the crime was Adelberto Silva, head of the National Organization Department and secretary general of the CPP. He was arrested in Laguna in October.
2,000 IP killed
Unad said so far, around 2,000 IP leaders have either been harassed or killed by the Reds.
“In our culture, if we are wronged, we fight back. We choose to do it the right way,” Unad said.
Due to their closer ties to the government, Unad said their tribe has drafted four resolutions they have handed to the President with hopes of finally ending the abuses against them by the communist rebels.
The Palace defended as valid the raid on Ladlad’s safehouse in Novaliches, Quezon City that also yielded illegal firearms.
The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which provides immunity to officials of the communist movement, “is operative only if there are peace talks ongoing but that has been terminated by the proclamation of the President on 23 November 2017.
Secondly, the crime of rebellion is a continuing crime and therefore no warrant of arrest is needed for that,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison protested Ladlad’s arrest saying the arrest was conducted without a valid warrant.
Sison said Ladlad was allowed by the government to join backchannel talks from March to June this year even after President Duterte terminated formal negotiations through Proclamation 360 in November last year.
Wife claims foul play
Ladlad was taken into custody along with two other individuals in Barangay San Bartolome in Quezon City after authorities recovered one AK47 with a bayonet, an M16A1 assault rifle, two caliber 45 pistols and a 9 millimeter pistol, several loaded magazines, four grenades and “subversive documents.”
Ladlad and his companions were brought to Camp Karingal. He will be transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.
Ladlad’s wife, Fides, decried the arrest of her husband and denied that Ladlad owns guns, stressing her husband currently needs medicine because he has been sickly due to chronic asthma. The wife hinted that the pieces of evidence allegedly found were “planted” by the police.
“They were planted evidence to make sure my husband will not be able to get out of prison,” said Fides in a radio interview Thursday.
She claimed Ladlad had to go away because the military was searching for them after the President threatened to arrest NDFP consultants when peace talks were terminated. She also claimed they were tailed by military forces last month.
The police said Ladlad is a member of the CPP Central Committee and the head of the National United Front Commission.
The peace talks between the government and communist rebels were terminated last year after President Duterte cited continuing attacks by the NPA.
Progressive group Bayan Muna, on the other hand, denounced the arrest of Ladlad and echoed the sentiment of his wife that planted evidence were used.
In a statement, Bayan Muna chairman and former partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares said arresting NDFP peace consultants would only pose a negative impact on the peace process and show whether or not the Duterte administration is sincere in pushing a just and lasting peace.
Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, believes the firearms and explosives that Ladlad supposedly possessed were “highly suspicious.”