By Priam Nepomuceno

National Security Council Director General and National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año (File photo) 

MANILA – The National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday welcomed the confirmation made by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) regarding the deaths of its ranking leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, during an encounter with government troops in Catbalogan, Samar August last year.

“We welcome the confirmation by the CPP-NPA-NDF (New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) of the death of top terrorist leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon last August 2022. Benito Tiamzon was the Chairman of the CPP Executive Committee and Wilma Tiamzon was the CPP’s Secretary General,” NSC Director General and National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año said in a statement forwarded to reporters.

He added that this statement from the CPP confirmed their suspicions that the two were killed during the clash with government troops on Aug. 22, 2022.

“Finally, the terrorists have been forced to admit what many of us have suspected many, many months ago,” Año said.

And with the death of CPP founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison last December, the NSC chief said the “communist terrorist group” is now headless with no clear national leadership.

“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 added.

However, Año scored the CPP’s propaganda machinery for concocting and fabricating “an elaborate story which even implicates the United States in their deaths in order to squeeze whatever propaganda value” from the death of the Tiamzon couple.

The CPP claimed that Tiamzons were captured, tortured and subsequently killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a “US directed operation.”

“They are now trapped in their own web of lies which deserves scant comment. Needless to say, there is no truth whatsoever in this clearly fabricated story and we stand by the official reports from the AFP,” Año said.

The military earlier said the encounter which killed the Tiamzons stemmed from an ongoing operation in the northern and tri-boundary of Samar and Eastern Samar aimed at guarding water exits being used by NPAs using small boats or craft.

During this incident, the crew of patrolling scout boats saw something suspicious and intercepted the craft.

Military personnel even used a megaphone to stop the boat but instead of stopping, the occupants fired at the troops which ensued in an encounter.

The boat later exploded after being hit in the firefight. He also said the deaths of Tiamzons is just the latest in the string of defeats that show the clear decimation of communist terrorism in the Philippines, which includes the recent arrest of notorious terrorist Eric Jun Casilao in Langkawi, Malaysia in a successful joint law enforcement operation with the Malaysian authorities.

Casilao, like the Tiamzons, is a Central Committee member of CPP-NPA-NDF and is secretary of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) wanted for murder, kidnapping and a string of other crimes.

“Casilao, just like the Tiamzons, is a notorious NPA leader who orchestrated numerous terrorist activities in the Davao region,” the NSC chief added.

Año said Casilao’s arrest is the result of the successful collaboration between the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Army, 10th Infantry Division, Directorate for Intelligence of the Philippine National Police, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

This also reflects the effective collaboration between the Philippines and Malaysian authorities.

“This string of defeats on the part of the terrorists prove that the Philippine government is on the right track, and we shall sustain all anti-terrorism efforts we started years back, focusing on our local peace initiatives and good governance espoused by NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) under the guidance of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,” he added.

These successes also validates the country’s ranking in the Global Terrorism Index, released by the Institute for Economic and Peace, which shows a much-improved ranking for the Philippines at 18th place for the year 2022 compared to being in the top 10 countries worst affected by terrorism several years ago.

“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. The government is determined to capture terrorist leaders wherever they may be. The long arm of the law will always reach the criminal wherever he may be,” the NSC chief added.

Also, Año said that the government and the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) is extending the hand of unity and peace to all remaining members of the CPP-NPA-NDF who were duped by Sison and the Tiamzons into embracing this defunct and senseless cause.

“Now is the time for them to lay down their arms and rejoin mainstream society for the peace and development of the Filipino nation,” he said. (PNA)