Communist Party of the Philippines demands release of two captured leaders
24 March 2014. A World to Win News Service. On 22 March the Philippine government announced the arrest of two leading members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, whom it called the party’s Chairman and General Secretary, respectively. The two were reportedly captured along with five other people in central Cebu Province in the Western Visayas islands, an area devastated by Typhon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year. Wilma Austria had been captured once before, in the 1990s, but escaped. The government had set a bounty of 120,000 dollars on Benito Tiamzon’s head.
As the party describes itself, “The CPP was re-established on 16 December, 1968 on the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. It is the advanced detachment of the Filipino proletariat leading the new-democratic revolution. The CPP organizes and leads the New People’s Army that wages revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside.”
The CPP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) demanded that the two be released, stating that the arrest was in violation of a 1995 agreement guaranteeing the safe conduct and free passage of persons advising the NDFP in its peace negotiations with the government under the auspices of Norway. Those talks have been stalled since 2011. So far the Aquino government has rejected the argument that Tiamzon and Austria are entitled to that legal protection from arrest.
U.S. President Barack Obama is due to visit the Philippines in mid-April. These arrests came a week after the CPP denounced the Philippine government of President Benigno Aquino for preparing a treaty, under negotiation for the past several years, to be signed on that occasion. It would allow the U.S. access to Philippine military bases and to set up American facilities within those bases. The CPP said that the Philippine government is already expanding existing camps and bases, especially naval, and setting up new ones. “This agreement is a throwback to the era of U.S. military bases, where thousands of U.S. combat troops, their warships, jet fighters, communication facilities, nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were stationed within the country, and where the bases were used as launching pads for aggression in defence of U.S. interests,” said the CPP.
The arrest of the two CPP leaders and the preparation of the treaty were linked together as “welcome gifts” for Obama. According to some commentators, the arrests were also meant to counter activities to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of the New People’s Army on 29 March. (See Philippine Revolution Web Central)
Following is a 23 March statement by the CPP:
CPP condemns arrest of senior leaders investigating conditions, overseeing rehabilitation in the Visayas
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns in the strongest terms the reported arrest yesterday of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria. Tiamzon and Austria are both senior cadres of the CPP Central Committee and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in peace negotiations with the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH).
At the time of their arrest, both Tiamzon and Austria were performing tasks and duties assigned to them by the CPP and the NDFP. Up to recently, both were busy conducting first hand investigation into the conditions of the working class people in the Visayas region whose lives were devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and who continue to suffer from the Aquino regime’s antipeople, crony-controlled, corrupt and grossly inept response to the calamity.
Both were closely monitoring the efforts of the New People’s Army (NPA) in carrying out rehabilitation work in devastated regions. They were receiving reports from NPA commands about efforts to mobilize Red fighters to help build communal farms, till the land and mobilize and distribute seeds and other agricultural resources from the NDFP.
Austria, who has been among the country’s stalwarts in upholding and bannering the rights of women, is gravely concerned with the situation of women and children after the calamity, and has been vigorously calling on all revolutionary forces to work hard to expose their sufferings and extend all possible effort to alleviate their conditions. She was utterly indignant at having learned that substantial amounts of relief goods had rotted at the Aquino government’s warehouses while the people of Tacloban continue to suffer from lack of food, shelter and income.
Tiamzon, himself, has been actively looking into the widespread devastation wrought by the storm on the agricultural economy and fishing communities of Eastern Visayas, Cebu, Panay and Negros. He was personally looking into studies estimating the actual damage on agriculture and fisheries to be at P75-80 billion, contrary to the Aquino regime’s grossly understated estimate of P15 billion which help justify the allocation of bigger funds to his crony’s big business infrastructure projects.
As peace consultants of the NDFP, the arrest of Tiamzon and Austria further imperil peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP. The CPP condemns the Aquino regime for outrightly violating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in carrying out the arrest and detention of Tiamzon and Austria. They are both publicly known figures in peace negotiations. The NDFP has further identified both Tiamzon and Austria as holders of documents of identification counter-verified by then officials of the GPH.
The CPP condemns the Aquino regime and its armed forces for filing a slew of trumped-up criminal charges against Tiamzon and Austria. The CPP condemns the media campaign being conducted by Malacanang [the presidential palace] and the AFP [Armed forces of the Philippines] to demonize Tiamzon and Austria by depicting them as common criminals.
Such effort by the Aquino regime seeks to draw away attention from the public flak it is getting for its lies, corruption and ineptness, especially at the heels of its monumental failures in addressing the urgent demands of the people of the Visayas devastated by the supertyphoon. The Aquino regime is increasingly isolated from the people because of its contempt and disregard for the socio-economic conditions of millions of workers and peasants who suffer from its wrong economic policies that prioritize the interests of its cronies and its foreign big business bosses.
As leaders of the CPP, Tiamzon and Austria are the opposite of the landlord Aquino and his coterie of corrupt officials. Tiamzon and Austria are the epitome of simple living. Neither of them own a private home nor drive their own sports car. Neither do they play with guns for fun or personal satisfaction. They are not like Aquino and his officials who plunder public funds to aggrandize themselves or perpetuate their political rule.
Despite their age and health conditions, both Tiamzon and Austria continue to travel great distances in the rural areas in order to reach the farthest peasant homes and be among the most downtrodden masses. Unlike Aquino who was totally clueless of the conditions of the people in the path of supertyphoon Yolanda, Tiamzon and Austria were among the peasant masses when the winds ravaged through the Visayas. Unlike Aquino who took four days to act, Tiamzon and Austria immediately mobilized the CPP’s forces to carry out relief work and help in the rehabilitation of the peasant masses who suffered grave devastation of their crops and livelihood.
The CPP demands the immediate release of Tiamzon and Austria, as well as all their companions, and the dropping of all criminal charges against them. The CPP demands that the Aquino regime accord them the right to counsel and medical attention. Austria has severe asthma, and suffers both from a serious kidney ailment and spinal bone degeneration secondary to osteoporosis and is in need of constant medical care.
The CPP, together with the workers, peasants and downtrodden masses and all their revolutionary forces, deplore the arrest of Tiamzon and Austria. Their arrest forms part of the general trend of repression under the Aquino regime. Daily, the landlord Aquino seeks to perpetuate the oppressive and exploitative system by unleashing his attack dogs, armed and supported with U.S. military financing, against the peasant masses and workers, who stand up for their rights and voice their demands.
While the wisdom and guidance of individual leaders is important, the advance of the revolutionary struggle depends more on the collective wisdom, determination and organization of the revolutionary masses. The arrest of Tiamzon and Austria will not stop the main trend of advance of the people’s war.
It is the Aquino regime’s puppetry, corruption, brutality and mendacity that teach the Filipino people about the need to wage revolutionary resistance. They are thus ever determined to advance along the path of widespread mass struggles and revolutionary armed resistance in order to achieve national and social liberation.