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Arrest of Philippine communist leader raises security issues, sparks protest plans

Arrest of Philippine communist leader raises security issues, sparks protest plans

The Philippines braced Wednesday for fallout from the arrest of a communist leader as his compatriots vowed to intensify their 39-year-old insurgency and stage international protests.
Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, was arrested Tuesday in the Dutch city of Utrecht for allegedly ordering the murders of two former allies in Manila. Sison is accused of commanding a rebel uprising for more than 20 years from his home in exile.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hailed the arrest as "a giant step toward peace. A victory for justice and the rule of law."
But the National Democratic Front, the Marxist umbrella, condemned the arrest and raids on Sison's office and at least seven other addresses in Utrecht and the nearby town of Abcoude.
"Contrary to the claims of Mrs. Arroyo, the arrest of Prof. Sison and the raids conducted are bound to terminate the ongoing peace negotiations," said NDF official Fidel V. Agcaoili, who called the allegations against Sison "trumped-up charges" and claimed Dutch authorities violated his rights.
The on-and-off talks have been stalled since 2004. The rebels, who the military have been called the country's most serious threat, have continued to carry out attacks, mostly on security forces and infrastructure. They have denied military allegations that they are continuing to carry out bloody internal purges.
NDF chairman Luis Jalandoni said protests were planned for later Wednesday in Manila and Philippine communities in six countries.
"Certainly, the struggle of the people in the countryside and cities will intensify," Jalandoni told Philippine radio station DZBB in an interview from the Netherlands.
Jesus Dureza, Arroyo's adviser on the peace process, said word of the arrest came during a Cabinet security meeting.
"I'm sure the security forces are taking the appropriate measures," Dureza said.
Sison claims he no longer has an operational role in the insurgency. In a 2002 interview, Sison said he had "no weapon but my tongue."
But the military believes he continues to be its overall leader, often writing revolutionary treatises under the pseudonym Armando Liwanag.
Dutch prosecutors said he was accused of ordering the killings in 2003 and 2004 of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara in Manila. Spokesman Wim de Bruin said Sison, 68, will be put on trial in the Netherlands.
Kintanar was shot in a Japanese restaurant on Jan. 23, 2003. Tabara was killed, along with his son-in-law, in a parking lot as they got out of their car on Sept. 26, 2004, the statement said.
The Philippines Communist Party's armed wing claimed responsibility for the slayings in Quezon City, a Manila suburb.
Kintanar was commander of the New People's Army when it created a special unit that assassinated U.S. Army Col. James Nicolas Rowe of the Joint US Military Assistance Group in 1989.
However, he later fell out with the communist leadership. The NPA said it killed him for various crimes against the people and the revolution, including the 1986 kidnapping of Japanese businessman Nobuyi Wakaoji, which he reportedly kept secret from top communist leaders.
The communist rebels said Tabara pulled a gun on a group of rebels as they tried to "arrest" him for so-called counterrevolutionary activities, including the murder of an elderly peasant leader and a bank holdup in which four employees were killed in 2002.
For years, Sison has fought a legal battle to stay in the Netherlands as a refugee, but repeatedly has had all his requests for asylum rejected. However, the Dutch government has never moved to expel him, and Sison has said he faced assassination if he were to return to the Philippines.
The European Union added Sison to its terror list in October 2002.
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Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila and Mike Corder and Toby Sterling in the Netherlands contributed to this report.