Philippine communists confirm deaths of 2 senior leaders in August 2022

Jojo Riñoza
Philippine communists confirm deaths of 2 senior leaders in August 2022 Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, raise clenched fists during a rally outside of police headquarters in Manila, Aug. 19, 2016.
Ted Aljibe/AFP

The outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines on Thursday confirmed the deaths of two of its senior leaders months ago, alleging that the military staged their deaths to make it appear they were killed in a clash at sea.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, meanwhile, called the CPP allegation “lies.”

CPP spokesman Marco Valbuena said the group’s chairman, Benito Tiamzon, 71, and his wife, Secretary General Wilma Tiamzon, 70, were among 10 members killed in an August 2022 incident.

Valbuena said the Tiamzons and their companions were in two vans when they were caught by the military along a national highway in Catbalogan City on Aug. 21, 2022.

“They were flagged down between 12 noon and 1 in the afternoon, after which all communications with the group were lost. They were unarmed,” Valbuena said.

“According to the information gathered by the Central Committee, the Tiamzons suffered severe beating in the hands of their captors. Internal reports cited witnesses who saw how the faces and bodies of the victims were smashed, apparently beaten with hard objects,” he said.

Earlier, then-8th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edgardo De Leon said authorities believed the 10 died after their boat exploded during a firefight off Catbalogan city early Aug. 22, 2022, adding the Tiamzons were among those onboard.

Valbuena said CPP investigation disputed the military story on the circumstances leading to the death of the couple and their companions.

“In truth, the already lifeless bodies of the Tiamzons and their group were dumped on a motorboat filled with explosives, and tugged from Catbalogan midway toward Taranganan island before it was detonated,” Valbuena said.

The national security adviser said the CPP’s allegation deserved “scant comment.”

“[T]here is no truth whatsoever in this clearly fabricated story and we stand by the official reports from the AFP,” Año said in a statement, using an acronym for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He noted that the CPP could now be considered “headless with no clear leadership,” and it “had been forced to admit what many of us have suspected many, many months ago.”

“They have lost both their guiding light in the person of Joma and their commander in the Tiamzons and are now groping in the dark with no direction nor future in sight,” he said.

Año was referring to Jose Maria Sison, the rebels’ ideological founder who died in December.

Sison founded the communist front in 1969, making it one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world. The fighting has killed thousands of Filipinos and efforts at peace talks have failed repeatedly. Government successes on the field, particularly in the last five years, has led to their numbers falling to about 2,100 fighters from a high of about 20,000 in the 1980s.

The news of the Timazons’ death came the same week the government announced the capture in Malaysia and deportation to the Philippines of Eric Jun Casilao, another high-ranking rebel leader. 

Año noted that Casilao is a Central Committee member of CPP-NPA-NDF and was “a notorious NPA leader who orchestrated numerous terrorist activities.” NDF is an acronym for the National Democratic Front, the party’s political wing.

“The death of the Tiamzons and the arrest of Casilao show that terrorists cannot find a safe haven anywhere in the world, be it in the mountains or in other countries,” Año said.

“The government is determined to capture terrorist leaders wherever they may be.”

Froilan Gallardo in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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