Government Claims Big Victory in Arrest of Rebel Army Commander
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ President Corazon Aquino and military officials claimed a major victory over communist rebels Wednesday after the capture of the rebel army’s leader and the Communist Party’s No. 2 man.
Romulo Kintanar, commander of the New People’s Army, and Rafael Baylosis, secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Philippines, were captured in raids Tuesday, along with the rebel army’s logistics officer and another high- ranking party member, officials said.
Mrs. Aquino hailed the arrests as ″happy news for our country″ and commended Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Renato de Villa and other officers.
″It clearly demonstrates that we have turned the tide and are winning the war against the communist insurgency,″ she said. ″The fact that they were arrested on the NPA’s 19th anniversary attests to the admirable performance of our Armed Forces of the Philippines. I am elated and so is our citizenry.″
The 24,000-strong NPA is in its 20th year of a violent struggle for power. The military was on a heightened state of alert in Manila in anticipation of rebel attacks marking the anniversary.
Kintanar had long been wanted by the military. Besides heading the NPA, he is widely believed to be the chief organizer of communist assassination squads known as ″Sparrow Units″ because of the swiftness of their attacks.
The squads have been blamed for killing more than 150 police officers and soldiers on Manila streets since last year.
″The rebels are now demoralized,″ Maj. Gen. Ramon Montano, Philippine Constabulary chief, declared at a reception for retiring military officers.
Montano said Kintanar initially gave authorities a false name and it was not until much later that they realized who he really was.
The others arrested with him and Baylosis were Benjamin de Vera, the Central Committee member in charge of operations on Mindanao island; NPA logistics officer Napoleon Manuel; Manuel’s wife, Inez; Kintanar’s wife, Gloria; and Marco Palo, a party liaison officer.
Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos described the arrests as a ″big blow″ to the communists and attributed their capture to a unified and more efficient military.
But Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Biazon, Manila’s military commander, warned that the rebels were far from paralyzed.
″It will disturb some of their programs,″ Biazon said. ″But to say that this is defeat for the Communist movement may not entirely be correct because we are fighting an idea, and the idea is still there.″
Biazon said he expected more arrests soon.
Brig. Gen. Honesto Isleta, a military spokesman, said troops ″almost captured″ party chairman Benito Tiamzon. Isleta declined to elaborate.
The official Philippine News Agency said Tiamzon had been tipped off about the arrests of his comrades in the Manila suburb of San Juan and was gone when troops arrived at his hideout in suburban Quezon City.