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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, with the military going on red alert as his supporters vowed to intensify their insurgency. Leftist groups worried about a possible crackdown and all-out war.
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 Netherlands 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 organization, and other leftist groups condemned the arrest and raids on Sison's office and at least seven other addresses in the Netherlands. They claimed the charges were fueled by fabricated evidence from the Philippine government.
"This will result in an all-out war and lead to the end of peace negotiations," Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the leftist group Bayan, told a news conference.
"The government is very eager to pursue its all-out war policy. There is always that possibility that they could escalate the repression also against legal organizations based in the Philippines."
On-and-off talks to end the 39-year-old insurgency stalled in 2004. The rebels, considered the country's most serious threat, have continued to carry out attacks, mostly on security forces and infrastructure.
Police kept about 200 protesters from approaching the Dutch Embassy in Manila on Wednesday. In Hong Kong, about 35 Philippine migrant workers protested outside the Dutch Consulate, and rallies were planned in five other countries.
"Certainly, the struggle of the people in the countryside and cities will intensify," NDF chairman Luis Jalandoni told Philippine radio station DZBB from the Netherlands.
"Rather than annihilating the revolution, what happened will just add fire to the revolutionary movement," said Rep. Crispin Beltran of the leftist Anakpawis party.
The military went on nationwide red alert. Police were ordered to safeguard government installations, malls and parks.
"There is really no indication of any violence, but we always have to be prepared," military Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said.
Sison claims he no longer has an operational role in the insurgency. But the military believes he continues to be its overall leader, often writing revolutionary treatises under the pseudonym Armando Liwanag.
Dutch prosecutors said Sison, 68, will be put on trial there. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty.
Sison is accused of ordering the killings of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara in suburban Manila. The NPA claimed responsibility for the slayings.
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the families of Kintanar and Tabara filed a case against Sison, and the Philippine government helped them to transfer the case to the Dutch government.
Dutch prosecutors later asked for help as they made several visits to the Philippines where they interviewed "a lot of possible witnesses," Gonzales said.
Kintanar was commander of the New People's Army when it created a special unit that assassinated U.S. Army Col. James Nicolas Rowe in 1989.
However, he later fell out with the communist leadership and was shot in a Japanese restaurant on Jan. 23, 2003. 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 rebels said Tabara, who was shot Sept. 26, 2004, pulled a gun on a group trying to "arrest" him in a parking lot for so-called counterrevolutionary activities, including the murder of an elderly peasant leader and a bank holdup in which four employees were killed.
For years, Sison has fought a legal battle to stay in the Netherlands as a refugee, but his requests for asylum have been 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 and Oliver Teves in Manila and Mike Corder and Toby Sterling in the Netherlands contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-18 01:50 GMT+08:00