CPP confirms deaths of top leaders Tiamzons, claims they were tortured and killed

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
CPP confirms deaths of top leaders Tiamzons, claims they were tortured and killed
This undated file photo shows Benito and Wilma Tiamzon being brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.
The STAR / Boy Santos, File

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:52 p.m.) — The Communist Party of the Philippines confirmed Thursday the deaths of their top leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, whom they claimed were tortured and killed by government troops last August 21.

The CPP said in a statement it took months of investigation for them to confirm the deaths of Benito or "Ka Laan", chairperson of their central committee, and Wilma or "Ka Bagong-tao", their secretary-general, who had long been speculated to have died in a boat explosion off Samar’s coast during an operation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But the CPP countered this, saying the unarmed Tiamzons and eight other rebels were flagged down when they were travelling to Catbalogan City, held captive, tortured and killed. Their bodies were then supposedly dumped on a motorboat with explosives which was then detonated, the CPP claimed.

"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," the CPP said.

"The claimed mid-sea firefight and explosion were all a drama hatched by the AFP and its US military advisers, to hide all evidence of the ignominy of their fascist crime."

Along with the Tiamzons, CPP subregional secretary in Eastern Visayas Joel Arceo or "Ka Divino", and members of the guerrilla force of the central headquarters Ka Yen, Ka Jaja, Ka Matt, Ka Ash, Ka Delfin, Ka Lupe, Ka Butig were killed.

"The Party demands justice for the August 21 massacre of the Tiamzons et al. Their capture, torture and killing were directed by the top officers of the AFP," the CPP said as it called for the alleged perpetrators’ indictment in all relevant courts.

The CPP’s Central Committee and the National Operational Command of its armed wing, the New People’s Army, directed rebels to silently perform a 21-gun salute to pay respects to the Tiamzons.

Arrested in 2014

The couple was arrested in 2014, but was freed over two years after for them to participate in peace talks with the Philippine government under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte who in his early days in Malacañang cultivated warm ties with rebels.

Their relationship soured over allegations of ceasefire violations from both camps, prompting Duterte to terminate negotiations with the CPP, NPA and their political unit, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Following this, the Tiamzons were convicted in 2020 for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of military officers in 1988. A manhunt was subsequently ordered for their capture.

The CPP’s confirmation of the deaths of the Tiamzons came four months after the passing of its founding chairperson, Jose Maria Sison, which the Armed Forces of the Philippines said was an opening for the government to reach out to local rebel units to encourage them to surrender.

"What is evident right now is there is a breakdown of communication from the national leadership down to the subordinate organs of the CPP, at least giving them the opportunity to surrender because there is no longer that strong restraint on the part of the CPP to hold them," AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar told ABS-CBN News Channel in December.

The military estimates that the NPA only 2,000 remaining members in its last two guerilla fronts, with only two being active and the rest having been weakened. — with a report from Kaycee Valmonte

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