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Monday, March 24, 2014

Senior Communist Party of the Philippines Officials Captured- Creating Potential Leadership Vacuum and Impacting Any Resumption of Peace Talks

     The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently announced the capture of Benito Tiamzon, the Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) along with his spouse Wilma Tiamzon, who is Secretary General of the CPP, and five other cadre in a raid on a safe house in Carcar Cebu. 

The AFP insist the rebels continue to pose a threat; citing that NPA units frequently ambush or raid small military and police units, as well as extort money from rural businesses.  Since its inception the Maoist rebellion has claimed 30,000 lives with the AFP estimating the NPA’s current strength at approximately 4-5,000 guerrillas—down from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s.

    The Philippine government had been in peace talks with the CPP/NPA-- brokered by Norway. In April 2013, President Benigno Aquino announced that peace talks had collapsed, dampening chances for a political settlement before the president's six-year term ends in mid-2016.  Since last April, Aquino has been pressuring Oslo to convince the rebels to return to the negotiating table.

     The capture of the Tiamzon’s will leave a power vacuum in the CPP/NPA operational leadership structure-- making the resumption of negotiations with the government unlikely in the near term.  Reportedly, the CPP is rife with political and ideological infighting-- pitting the Tiamzon’s against CPP Central Committee member, and founder, Jose Maria Sison—who lives in exile in the Netherlands. The capture of the Tiamzon’s could allow Sison to exert more operational control of the organization.   He has been criticized by elements of the CPP/NPA leadership for abandoning the movement and being out of touch with operational realities.

     It seems that as long as the Philippines continues to have severe economic problems, unemployment and corruption within its military, police and judicial institutions—the Communist movement will recruit cadre and have a place in Philippine society.

For more detailed analysis on CPP organization see link for Francis Domingo’s, Feb 12 2013 Small Wars Journal article: The Leadership Crisis in the Communist Party. Domingo is a former military analyst with the AFP’s Office of Strategic and Special Studies.

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