NDFP Peace Panel ‘immensely outraged’ at Tiamzons’ brutal deaths

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said it is “immensely outraged” at the killing of its member Benito Tiamzon and peace consultant Wilma Austria Tiamzon it blames on the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Following the announcement Thursday by the Communist Party of the Philippines that the Tiamzons were arrested, tortured and killed in Catbalogan, Samar last August 21, NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima said they are also in deep mourning for the Tiamzons and their eight companions.

“The reported manner of their questionable capture, inhuman treatment and barbaric torture, and the deceptive scheme to dispose of their and eight of their comrades’ mutilated bodies are despicable acts of evil persons from the GRP State’s terror machinery,” de Lima said.

According to the CPP, the Tiamzons and their companions were captured at a military checkpoint near Catbalogan and and suffered severe beating in the hands of their captors, citing witnesses who saw how the faces and bodies of the victims were smashed with hard objects.

Their dead bodies were then taken to a boat that was blown up off the coast of Samar province to make it appear that they were killed in a firefight with the military’s Joint Task Force Storm, the 8th Infantry Division and the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trident in the early morning hours of August 22, 2022 off the coast of Catbalogan.

The CPP added that the “Catbalogan 10” suffered the same fate as other CPP and New People’s Army (NPA) leaders who were brutally killed after capture, such as in the case of NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris) in October 2021, NPA national commander Menandro Villanueva (Ka Bok) in January 2022, revolutionary leader Antonio Cabantan (Ka Manlimbasog) in December 2020, CPP Central Committee leader Julius Giron (Ka Nars) in March 2020 and a number of others.

“This deliberate pattern of either arbitrarily arresting or outrightly murdering activists and revolutionaries must immediately stop,” de Lima said.

Instead of meaningful resolution of the armed conflict, the killings and other damaging acts and statements by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) make it more difficult to address the root causes of the armed conflict, she added.

AFP denies CPP report

In media interviews Thursday, retired 8th Infantry Division-Philippine Army commander Edgardo de Leon denied the CPP report that the Tiamzons were captured in a military checkpoint and were subsequently killed.

De Leon confirmed however that they implemented a dragnet in the area and purposefully engaged a number of alleged NPA fighters off the coast of Catbalogan where there is little chance of civilians being caught in the crossfire.

He also denied that their Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trident directly involved American troops.

 Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police said the results of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) results from abroad to establish if body parts retrieved on the coast of Catbalogan were indeed those of the Tiamzons.

The CPP however said that the supposed offshore firefight was an elaborate way to hide the torture the Tiamzons suffered in the hands of the military.

“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. In truth, the already lifeless bodies of the Tiamzons and their group were dumped on a motorboat filled with explosives, and tugged from Catbalogan midway towards Taranganan island before it was detonated. Only eight bodies were subsequently retrieved by the military,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said.  

The NDFP Negotiating Panel said the Tiamzons should not have suffered arrest, torture and murder as they were protected by several signed agreements and protocols.

“Being protected persons under the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as well as the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), in particular, and of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in general, they should have been accorded all their rights and not murdered in cold blood by remorse-deficit GRP State terrorists,” de Lima said.

Arrested for the second time in southern Cebu in 2014, the Tiamzons were released from jail in 2016 to enable their participation in formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP in Europe.

Benito was a member of the NDFP Peace Panel and a key political consultant of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Group (RWG) on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR). He was 71 years old.

Wilma a political consultant of the NDFP RWG on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EHDF). She was 70 years old.

Childhood sweethearts, the two were classmates at Rizal High School in Pasig where they graduated at the top of their class.

They both studied at the University of the Philippines where they separately joined the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan but jointly went underground when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Imposed martial law in 1972.

They rose to become two of the CPP’s top leaders and was credited for leading the party in its Second Great Rectification Movement in the 1990s.

The CPP said Benito was chairperson of its executive committee while Wilma was secretary general of its central committee at the time of their deaths.

“Ka Benny and Ka Wilma are incontestably two of the most beloved, selfless and brightest leaders of the struggle. They, like Joma (Sison), Fidel (Agcaoili), Randall Echanis, Randy Malayao, Pedro Codaste and countless others, have steadfastly dedicated their whole lives, energies, wisdom and talent to achieve a truly  just and lasting peace for the people,” de Lima said.

“We honor their legacy by carrying on what they have passed on with even more vigor and resolve.  There is no other option,” de Lima added.

Meanwhile, the CPP’s Central Committee urged all NPA units nationwide to perform 21 gun salutes for the Tiamzons on April 24, the 50th founding anniversary of the NDFP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)