Philippine Military Kills Communist Guerrilla Leader in Mindanao

Richel V. Umel and Froilan Gallardo
2022.01.06
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
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Philippine Military Kills Communist Guerrilla Leader in Mindanao Communist New People’s Army fighters stand in formation in Lagonglong, a town in Misamis Oriental province, southern Philippines, May 2, 2016.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

Government troops killed a senior commander of the communist New People’s Army during a gunfight in the southern Philippines, a military chief in the Mindanao region said Thursday.

The suspect slain on Wednesday night was identified as Menandro Villanueva (also known as Bok), a member of the NPA’s high command and longtime veteran of the Philippine communist insurgency, one of Asia’s longest-running armed conflicts.

Officials said he headed the guerrillas’ national operations command and controlled rebel units operating in the northeastern parts of Mindanao, the main island in the south. 

“It will take the communist terrorist group some time to replace a seasoned leader as Villanueva. As a result of this, we expect more communist terrorists to either yield to the troops or continue to suffer defeats under an inexperienced leader in the coming days,” said Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, head of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Villanueva was the second member of the NPA’s high command to be killed in recent months. In October, government troops killed Jorge Madlos, 72, the guerrilla force’s spokesman and its most wanted commander.

Villanueva, 69, also was a member of the politburo of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines. The New People’s Army is the CPP’s military wing.

“Mindanao’s most wanted terrorist is now finally neutralized by your Agila troopers,” said Ernesto Torres, commander of the 10th Division, referring to troops from his division. 

“They [NPA rebels] have nowhere to hide because the masses are already fed up with the abuses and extortion they perpetrated for more than five decades. The death of Menandro Villanueva signals that the end of the communist insurgency in Mindanao is already at hand.”

The gunfight that ended Villanueva’s life began as soldiers were patrolling a remote village in Mabini, a town in Davao de Oro province, after receiving information that Villanueva’s group was in the area, according to Capt. Mark Anthony Tito, spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

“Bok was hit in several parts of his body resulting in his demise. Troops are still conducting pursuit operations on the fleeing CNTs [CPP-NPA-Terrorists],” Tito told reporters. 

Military officials did not say if any other NPA members or troops involved in the gunfight were injured.

Founding member

Villanueva was a founding member of the NPA in Mindanao in the 1970s with Edgar Jopson, who died after a military raid in Davao City in 1982, officials said.

As a young man, Villanueva was an activist with the reformist youth organization Kabataang Makabaya who opposed the brutal rule of then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In 1972, while a student at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, Villanueva went underground after the Philippine president declared martial law, according to the military.

The communist insurgency in the Philippines dates back to 1969. From a peak of at least 20,000 guerrillas in the 1980s, the number of NPA fighters has fallen to about 5,000 in mostly remote areas of the Philippines. 

CPP and NPA leaders could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

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