CPP vows justice for Tiamzons and companions a year after deaths

The Communist Party of the Philippines vowed to attain justice for Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria and their companions it said were massacred in Catbalogan, Samar a year ago today, August 21.

In a statement, CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena reiterated their belief that the couple and their eight comrades were arrested by troops belonging to the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine army and subsequently tortured and executed.

“The revolutionary forces reiterate their vow to attain justice for the Tiamzons and all other victims of state terrorism,” Valbuena said.

The CPP officer added the murder of Tiamzon, Austria as well as their companions he identified as Ka (comrade) Divino, Ka Yen, Ka Jaja, Ka Matt, Ka Ash, Ka Delfin, Ka Lupe and Ka Butig “are dastardly fascist-terrorist crimes of the Marcos regime, perpetrated under the direction of their US military advisers.”

In a report eight months after the incident last April, the CPP’s Political Bureau said the Tiamzons were traveling on two separate vans along the national highway eastwards towards Catbalogan City.

READ: CPP reports capture, torture and murder of Tiamzons by the military

The group, later dubbed as the Catbalogan 10, was flagged down between 12:00 noon and 1:00 in the afternoon, after which all communications with the group were lost, the CPP said.

The group was unarmed, it added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) meanwhile said the victims were killed in a legitimate encounter off the coast of Catbalogan when their motorized boat exploded following a firefight with their soldiers.

“We have long suspected the deaths of CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma during an armed encounter with government troops on Aug. 22, 2022 in the seas off Catbalogan City, Samar, but we did not have the evidence to confirm it,” then AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said.

The AFP added that only body parts were what remained of those killed, preventing their immediate identification.

The military had long suspected that Tiamzon was CPP chairman while Austria was secretary general

Valbuena said that the couple long served as among key CPP leaders who selflessly dedicated their lives to the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation and the socialist aspirations of the working class.

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

Tiamzon and Wilma were last seen publicly as consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in 2016 and 2017.

“[T]he martyrdom of the Tiamzons will forever be remembered and inspire the younger generation of workers, peasants and all democratic classes to carry forward the Filipino people’s national democratic struggle,” Valbuena said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUPL to gov’t: Do your job, keep it fair and square

Human rights lawyers said it is the government that should investigate allegations of war crimes in connection with the reported death of top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Reacting to a statement made by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) Legal Cooperation Cluster, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the government is bound to gather evidence and initiate prosecution of those connected with the alleged torture and execution of the Tiamzons.

The NTF ELCAC earlier said that those who made the allegations, including the NUPL bear the burden of proof, adding that the lawyers’ group and human rights group Karapatan are affiliated with the CPP.

The task force added the mere fact that both the NUPL and Karapatan are demanding an investigation are “a clear proof that they are lying and can’t prove their perverted claim.”

The NUPL however reminded the government that it is the State’s duty to conduct investigations on complaints of rights violations.

“These types of comments are non-sequitur (illogical) and unduly place the burden on human rights lawyers and defenders to conduct a probe,” the NUPL said.

The lawyers added that it was the military that first reported the supposed waterborne firefight that may have killed the Tiamzons and eight others in August 2022, but later took down their social media posts on the matter.

Keep it professional

When citizens complain of rights violations, the government should welcome it as part of its commitment to uphold international humanitarian law, the NUPL said.

Instead, government lawyers—colleagues in the legal professions and co-officers of the court, are choosing to resort to “hateful and gratuitous name-calling” by labeling human rights attorneys as “CTG (communist terrorist group)-affiliated or CPP, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front of the Philippines front without competed, credible and admissible evidence,” they said.

The NUPL was reacting to Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda, a member of NTF ELCAC’s Legal Cooperation Cluster, who alleged that both NUPL and Karapatan are fronting for Communist groups.

The NUPL said such practice endangers their lives and prevents them from independently performing their duties as lawyers.

“Especially since we in NUPL are compelled to handle cases that most of our colleagues in the profession cannot, would not, or do not – for reasons we respect – handle,” the group said.

“While we may differ in views, opinions and positions – just like we do in court – we should all endeavor to keep our professional dealings civil and fair, use only dignified language, avoid low blows, and refrain from promoting an unsafe environment in any setting, as we are mandated to do as lawyers under the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability and out of basic respect for our fellow human beings,” the NUPL asked.

“We expect nothing less from our fellow lawyers. Let us keep it fair and square, if you please,” NUPL added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Happiness is in the revolution’

Reportedly captured, tortured and killed on August 21, 2022 with wife Wilma Austria and eight others:

“Happiness is in the revolution. I could not think of any other life. There is no other way. The revolution is not a burden, an obligation I perform with a heavy heart. It comes out naturally.”—BENITO TIAMZON, Communist Party of the Philippines Executive Committee Chairperson

CPP reports capture, torture and murder of Tiamzons by the military

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today confirmed Benito Tiamzon, chairman of its executive committee, and his wife, Wilma Austria Tiamzon, its secretary general, are dead.

Contrary to stories told by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however that the top Communist leaders were killed when their boat was blown up by government troopers in the sea off Samar province, the CPP said the two and companions were captured near Catbalogan City last August 21.

They were then heavily tortured and killed, CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena in a statement said.

“The entire leadership and membership of the (CPP) condemn in the strongest terms the (AFP) for the brutal torture and cowardly killing of Party leaders Benito Tiamzon (Ka Laan) and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon (Ka Bagong-tao), together with eight other revolutionaries after they were captured in Samar province on August 21, 2022,” Valbuena’s statement said.

Benito was 71 while Wilma was 70, the CPP said.

The group said the two were travelling with Ka Divino (Joel Arceo), a subregional secretary in Eastern Visayas, along with Ka Yen, Ka Jaja, Ka Matt, Ka Ash, Ka Delfin, Ka Lupe, Ka Butig who all belonged to the guerrilla force of the central headquarters.

In a report, the CPP’s political bureau said the Tiamzons were traveling on two separate vans along the national highway eastwards towards Catbalogan City. They were flagged down between 12:00 noon and 1:00 in the afternoon, after which all communications with the group were lost.

They were unarmed, the group said.

Valbuena said it took them took several weeks to investigate reports the AFP released last year about the Tiamzon’s death off the western coast of Samar island. He said it also took them months to piece together the details of the capture and subsequent massacre of the Tiamzons and companions.

The AFP said the Tiamzons were killed when their boat exploded while engaging 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 Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trident is a unit trained and commanded by the US (United States of America) military, the CPP said.

“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,” Valbuena said.

‘Heavily tortured’

According to the information gathered by the CPP Central Committee, the Tiamzons were in fact captured 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.

“The murder of the Tiamzons follow the pattern of the wilful killings perpetrated by the AFP against captured revolutionaries. The same cruel and cowardly methods were used in the killing of Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris), Menandro Villanueva (Ka Bok), Antonio Cabantan (Ka Manlimbasog), Julius Giron (Ka Nars) and a number of others,” Valbuena said.

Valbuena added that the CPP demands justice for the August 21 massacre of the Tiamzons and companions, naming top AFP generals and commander in chief President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as among those responsible.

The Tiamzons were last seen publicly when they participated in several formal peace negotiations in Norway, Italy and the Netherlands in 2016 and 2017 with the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

They also attended several peace forums in the Philippines before again going underground when the talks collapsed due to orders from Duterte and the military.

Benito and Wilma were top graduates of Rizal High School in Pasig City before becoming a couple while they were University of the Philippines students.

They were already members of several revolutionary organizations when they went underground after President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law in 1972.

Along with Giron, the Tiamzons were the highest-ranking CPP leaders who were allegedly killed by the AFP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in their first date after prison

While the GRP and NDFP peace talks was in recess, Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria took a few minutes to take a stroll on the grounds of Scandic Holmenkollen Park Hotel. Read more

Joma Sison meets the Tiamzons in Oslo

Prof. Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), meets Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria here in Oslo, Norway at the eve of the resumption of formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP. Tiamzon and Austria are alleged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be the current chairperson and secretary general of the CPP, respectively.

No contradiction in safe conduct pass for NDFP consultants–Bello

MANILA—The government’s chief negotiator does not see contradictions between earlier announced plans to release National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants and President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statement that he will only issue them safe conduct passes.

In his speech at the Philippine Air Force anniversary celebrations last July 5, Duterte said he “…is not ready to release everybody” but will only issue safe conduct passes for NDFP consultants Jose Maria Sison, Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria and NDFP panel chairperson Luis Jalandoni.

In May, NDFP spokesperson and peace panel member Fidel Agcaoili announced that Duterte told him he plans on issuing a general amnesty order for all political prisoners, numbering more than 500. Read more