By Aaron Recuenco, Francis Wakefield, Alex San Juan, and Genalyn Kabiling
Police and military operatives arrested one of the alleged top leaders of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratioc Front (NDF) consultant in a raid in Novaliches, Quezon City early Thursday morning.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the arrest of Vicente Ladlad was carried out with help from information forwarded byresidents regarding the presence of suspicious-looking individuals at Lot 16-A, Block 3 Saint Mark Street corner Saint Joseph Street in Barangay San Bartolome, where a Russian-made AK-47, M16 assault rifle, .45 pistol, a .9mm pistol, four hand grenades, ammunition and documents were seized.
‘Arrest NDF consultants’
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government is determined to arrest NDF consultants previously covered by a safety conduct pass agreement amid the collapse of the peace talks.
“There has been an announcement by the President even last year about the arrest of these people given the proclamation that the peace talks have ended,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
Panelo argued that the NDFA consultants, who were earlier freed during the peace talks, could no longer invoke the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
Ladlad is a member of the CPP Central Committee, head of its National United Front Commission, and consultant to now defunct peace negotiations.
He was among those released as part of the government’s confidence-building measures during the peace negotiations period..
He is reportedly a member of the CPP- Central Committee, the highest governing council of the communist rebels in the country.
Also arrested during the operation were his aides, Alberto Villamor and Virginia Villamor.
Pursuing a tip-off from local residents, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Guillermo Eleazar said the area was placed under close surveillance and monitoring.
Armed with a search warrant, the police, backed by soldiers, swooped down on the area shortly after midnight and arrested Ladlad and the Villamors.
“Our operation was based on the possible possession of firearms illegally. The firearms seized in the operation will serve as a basis for the filing of the charges,” said Eleazar.
He added that the identity of Ladlad and other people seen frequenting the house during the surveillance was confirmed by former communist rebels who had already surrendered to the government.
Eleazar also disputed the allegations made by militant groups that the firearms and grenades confiscated were all planted.
“That’s their usual defense. On our part, we have sought the presence of barangay officials and homeowners association because that is a requirement in conducting operations like this. The operation was done in an orderly manner,” said Eleazar.
The official said they will welcome any filing of charges against them, after Ladlad’s wife claimed that the arrest was illegal and that the firearms were planted.
“That’s normal. It’s their right, it’s part of democracy,” said Eleazar.
“These firearms will be submitted to the Crime Laboratory and will be subjected to ballistics so that we can compare it with recovered slugs before. These firearms might have been used in the past to commit crime,” said Albayalde.
Albayalde said JASIG cannot be used in this case since the peace talks have been cancelled and that possession of illegal firearms is a violation of the law.
“This is not a political issue, this is a violation of the law,” said Albayalde.
Ladad is the third NDF consultant arrested since Prvsident Duterte called off the peace talks with communist rebels last year.
The first to be arrested were Rafael Baylosis and Adel Silva.
Albayalde said all the documents confiscated from Ladlad will be turned over to the military.
The purpose is to assess the intelligence value in the campaign against communist rebels, especially on the aspect of plans to overthrow the government.
The military earlier accused the communist rebels of plotting to overthrow the Duterte administration.
Ladlad was linked to multiple murder cases for the purging of CPP members tagged by its leaders as government spies.
At least 67 bodies were unearthed in September 2006 in what is now dubbed as the Inopacan, Leyte massacre involving the Southern Leyte Front of the New People’s Army.
Ladlad was among prominent CPP leaders charged with multiple counts of murder.