MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines security forces arrested the country’s top communist leaders on Saturday, a week ahead of the 45th anniversary of the group’s armed struggle when it is expected to launch attacks on government targets, head of the armed forces said on Sunday.
The communist leaders had been blocking peace negotiations and ordering followers to step up attacks against plantations, mines, telecommunications and construction firms to raise funds to finance their revolution, according to the military.
Benito Tiamzon, chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)) and his wife, Wilma Austria Tiamzon, were in two vehicles when army and police forces intercepted them in Carcar, Cebu, on Saturday, said General Emmanuel Bautista, the head of the armed forces.
“The arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon is another victory for the combined efforts between Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other stakeholders in pursuit of peace and security,” Bautista said in a statement.
“We will continue to strengthen our resolve to bring other criminals to justice in honor of the victims of the violence perpetrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and in honor of our people who deserve to live in peace and developed society.”
The 3,000-member New People’s Army, the armed wing of the communist party, has been waging a protracted guerrilla war for a communist state from the rural countryside.
The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people. The government offered a 5.6 million pesos ($123,600) for the arrest of Benito Tiamzon in 2012.
Bautista called on the Maoist-led guerrillas to abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families.
Negotiations between the government and National Democratic Front, the political arm of the rebel group, brokered by Norway had stalled since 2011 over demands to free political prisoners.
The government is also fighting Muslim separatists in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic state in Southeast Asia, but a comprehensive peace agreement will be signed this week with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), ending four decades of conflict that has killed 120,000 people. ($1 = 45.3000 Philippine Pesos)
Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Michael Perry