Monday, March 25, 2019

Another NDF consultant, 2 others nabbed in Laguna raid

From the Philippine New Agency (Mar 25, 2019): Another NDF consultant, 2 others nabbed in Laguna raid

Authorities arrested another consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and his two companions in raid in Laguna on March 24.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, said Francisco Fernandez, 71, was arrested in Barangay Calumpang in the town of Liliw around 5:16 a.m..

Hernandez has four standing arrest warrants over murder charges, one of which includes the killing of his wife.

“The operation that led to their arrest is part of our aggressive campaign against crime, terrorism and wanted persons. The subject of the operation, Francisco Fernandez, has standing arrest warrant for murder,” Albayalde told reporters.

Also nabbed were Cleofe Lagtapon, 66, reportedly a partner of Fernandez, who reportedly heads the Regional Deputy for Communications and Education of the New People's Army (NPA) operating in Negros provinces and Gee-Ann Perez, 20, a member of the NPA Regional Communications Staff in Negros Island.

“The arrest of the Two of the Most Wanted Persons (national level) holding key position of CPP-NPA-NDF specifically Kilusang Rehiyon Negros (KRN) Committee will greatly affect the leadership aspect of the communist terrorists’ group,” he said.

“In addition, it shows genuine support and serious campaign to eliminate or neutralize the 50 long years existence of CPP-NDF-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) that brought terror and problems to the Filipino people and its government,” the PNP chief added.

Seized from the suspects were three handguns with ammunition, three hand grenades, various documents, cellular phones, a laptop, and several USBs (Universal Serial Bus).

The PNP chief said the arrested persons will also be charged for violation of Comelec Resolution 10429 in relation to the Omnibus Election Code; violation of RA 10591 (Illegal possession of firearms); and violation of RA 9516 (Illegal possession of explosives).

Albayalde said all the documents and other items seized from Fernandez will be turned over to the military to check on their intelligence value.

“The military intelligence will check on them. We also would like to find out if they have connections with some candidates based on the documents that would be extracted from the laptop and USBs,” Albayalde said.

For his part, Brig. Gen. Edward Carranza, director of the Police Regional Office 4-A (Calabarzon), confirmed that Fernandez used to be a priest in Negros Island before he joined the NPA.

“In the past, we had a lot of operations to get him but he would always evade arrest. There were several people arrested before but they were just look-a-like,” Carranza told reporters.

Carranza said Fernandez is currently confined at an Army hospital after he complained of chest pains after the arrest.

“He is an old man so we understand his situation. But the arrest warrants will be returned to the court that issued them,” said Carranza.

Fernandez also serves as spokesman for the NPA operating in Negros and the deputy secretary for the organization.

Hernandez was among the NDF consultants who were temporarily released to take part in the peace negotiations between the government and communist leaders in Oslo, Norway in 2016.

Of the 23 NDFP consultants who were released, six have already been re-arrested including Hernandez.

Earlier, the PNP also arrested CPP key leaders Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casamber and Renante Gamara over illegal possession of firearms.

Support for local peace talks

While stressing the need to further address insurgency following the scrapping of peace negotiations with the communist movement, the PNP remains fully supportive of the government's move for localized peace talks.

"This policy of government to reach out the hand of friendship in a grand gesture of peace, augurs well to the community-policing mandate of the PNP based on the principle that local problems are best resolved in the community level by all members of the community themselves which include among others, families, barangays, LGU, churches, NGOs, police, etc.," Albayalde said.

He noted as part of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict under Executive Order 70, and as a member of the Provincial Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee, all Police Provincial Offices (PPOs)are ready and capable of responding to circumstances, needs and special concerns of former rebels who want to abandon the armed struggle and become productive members of society through provision of financial assistance and half-way houses by the DILG-DND, and other government agencies.

AFP supports PNP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, said that it is ready to assist the police in arresting individuals, who were earlier released to help in the negotiation process in the recently-terminated peace talks with the communist rebels.

"Meanwhile, we will vigorously support the efforts of the PNP in bringing back to the bar of justice, those who were temporarily released for reasons in connection with the terminated peace talks," Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, in a message to the Philippine News Agency Monday.

AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, in an interview over DWIZ Sunday, said the termination of peace talks by President Rodrigo Duterte last week has effectively negated the safe conduct passes issued to rebel consultants.

He said these individuals should immediately surrender themselves to authorities or be arrested openly.

Last week, authorities arrested Renante Gamara, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) for the National Capital Region and his companion, retired priest Arturo Joseph Balagat in Imus, Cavite.

The CPP-NPA is listed as terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.

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