Philippines: Third Communist Party Negotiator Arrested

Jojo Rinoza
Dagupan, Philippines
190827-ph-communist-620.jpeg A man holding a rosary raises his fist during a rally in Manila to denounce a wave of killings targeting leftist activists in the central island of Negros Occidental, Aug. 21, 2019.
Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews

Philippine police arrested a third peace negotiator for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as part of a crackdown ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, after four police were killed last month in an ambush in central Negros Oriental province, officials said Tuesday.

Esterlita Suaybaguio, 59, a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was taken into custody before dawn Monday from her apartment building in Quezon City, a northern Manila suburb, officials said.

Two other consultants, Winona Birondo, 60, and her husband Alexander Birondo, 67, were arrested in July. The three are peace-panel members of the NDFP, the political wing of the CPP, which has been waging a rebellion for the past 50 years.

Metro Manila police director Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar alleged that Suaybaguio was the rebel group’s secretary who was wanted in connection with the killing of a police officer last month.

A handgun with seven bullets, a grenade and subversive documents were recovered from the suspect, according Eleazar. He said the authorities acted on a tip.

“We are thankful to our fellow Filipinos who informed the authorities about (her) activities which prompted us to apply for a search warrant,” he said. “Their role is vital in curbing all kind of crimes as well as terror activities.”

NDFP chairman Fidel Agcaoili denounced the latest police action and called on the government to free the three, saying they were covered by an immunity agreement because of their roles on the peace panel.

“Suaybaguio’s arrest is another obstacle to the peace talks which the Duterte regime wants to bury,” Agcaoili said in a statement.

“The Duterte regime remains on a fascist rampage that adds more and more obstacles to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” he said.

President ordered crackdown

Last month, Duterte ordered a nationwide crackdown against communist rebels following the death of four police during a July 18 ambush in Negros Oriental province. The Binondos were taken into custody five days later.

Police arrested the couple after going to their apartment to search for a murder suspect, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in July.

“During the operation, the couple interfered, assaulted and physically prevented the police officers from arresting a suspect who has a standing warrant of arrest for murder,” Banac said.

The Birondos were brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit headquarters, where authorities determined that they allegedly were tied to previous cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Officers returned to the couple’s apartment and found weapons, ammunition and grenades, officials said.

Suaybaguio’s arrest was reported two days after soldiers killed a rebel leader during an encounter in the city of Ozamiz in the southern Philippines that saw the arrests of seven New People’s Army rebels. The NPA is the armed unit of the communist movement.

Shortly after taking office in 2016, President Duterte, a self-described leftist, opened peace talks with the CPP and released dozens of detained insurgent leaders as a goodwill measure.

The relationship soured months later when the rebels were accused of continuing their attacks in remote areas of the country, despite the peace talks.

Froilan Gallardo in Cagayan de Oro province, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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