ZAMBOANGA CITY – Philippine authorities are holding a senior communist rebel leader following his arrest in South Cotabato.
Army Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Felix Armodia, a regional rebel commander of the New People’s Army, was captured in the village of San Roque in Tampakan town.
He said the army and the police mounted the joint operation that led to Armodia’s capture on Friday afternoon in his hideout and that civilian informers allegedly tipped off the military about his presence in the village.
“Armodia, who uses the aliases Jing and Jade, is currently being interrogated by authorities on his role in many attacks on civilian and police and military targets, including the assaults on plantation farms and construction firms in the southern Philippines,” Caber, who branded the rebel leader as ‘notorious,’ told The Manila Times.
Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, praised security forces for Armodia’s capture and told troops to intensify their operations against the NPA, which has been waging a secessionist war for decades.
“There shall be no let-up of pursuit operations against those responsible in the series of attacks to civilians and civilian properties in Eastern Mindanao. The public is now aware that their role in peace and security in the region is vital to the success of the security operations,” he said.
There was no immediate statement from the NPA about Armodia’s capture.
Hopes of reviving peace talks with the rebels have dimmed since the arrest of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife, the party’s secretary general Wilma Tiamzon, in March.
The communist rebellion has claimed 30,000 lives, according to estimates by the government, which believes the rebels continue to pose a threat despite the NPA comprising of only 4,000 guerrillas — down from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s.
There has been an increase in the number of deadly encounters following the arrest of the CPP leaders.
Three soldiers were killed in a NPA ambush in the northern Philippines on Thursday, while three NPA guerillas were killed in a clash with troops in Mindanao on Wednesday.
A NPA officer, Recto Golimlim, was killed while fighting with troops in the town of Magallanes, Sorsogon, on April 27.
He was the region’s second-in-command as well as being an explosives expert, a military statement said.
The guerrillas frequently ambush or raid small military and police units and extort money from rural businesses, military officials say.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd had hoped to reach a peace agreement with the communists by the end of his term in 2016, but in April last year the government declared the talks had collapsed.
The prospects of reopening negotiations have faded with the arrest of the Tiamzons as the insurgents continue to launch attacks despite the capture of their leaders. Al Jacinto and AFP