By Aaron Recuenco and Danny Estacio
Police and military operatives have arrested a consultant of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the leftist group’s botched talks with the government in a raid in Liliw, Laguna Monday morning.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said two more top NPA officials were also arrested when soldiers from the 202nd Brigade and policemen swooped down on the lair of Francisco Fernandez at around 5 a.m. in Barangay Calumpang.
Aside from Fernandez, also nabbed were Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez.
The 66-year old Lagtapon is reportedly a partner of Fernandez. She is reportedly the Regional Deputy for Communications and Education of the NPA operating in Negros provinces.
The 20-year old Perez, on the other hand, is a staff of the Regional Communications Staff of the NPA in Negros Island.
“The operation that led to their arrest is part of our aggressive campaign against crime, terrorism and wanted persons. The subject of the operation, Francisco Fernandez, has standing arrest warrant for murder,” said Albayalde.
Seized from them, according to Albayalde, were three handguns with various bullets, three hand grenades, various documents, cellular phones, a laptop and several USBs (Universal Serial Bus).
Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commanding general of the Second Infantry Division, said the 71-year old Fernandez and the two others are currently under their custody.
Paayno said Fernandez was the sixth NDF consultant who has been arrested since Duterte decided to no longer hold peace negotiations with the Communist rebels.
He said there are 17 more NDF consultants who were given safe conduct passes.
Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, director of the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) regional police, confirmed that Fernandez used to be a priest in Negros Island before he joined the NPA.
“In the past, we had a lot of operations to get him but he would always evade arrest. There were several people arrested before but they were just look-a-like,” said Carranza.
Carranza said Fernandez is currently confined at an Army hospital after he complained of chest pains after the arrest.
“He is an old man so we understand his situation. But the arrest warrants will be returned to the court that issued them,” said Carranza.
Based on their background check, Carranza said Fernandez has four standing arrest warrants for murder.
Fernandez also serves as spokesman for NPA operating in Negros and the deputy secretary for the organization.
Fernandez was the second top leader of NPA arrested in Laguna in recent months, according to Sr. Supt. Eleazar Matta, director of the Laguna Provincial Police.
He said Laguna seemed to be the favorite hiding place of the Communist rebels due to the continuously increasing population in the province, aside from the fact that residents were getting used to presence of strangers due to migration.
“They have all they need in Laguna. They also prefer the province probably due to its strategic location,” said Matta.
Laguna is near the mountainous area of Quezon province.
Albayalde said all the documents and other items seized from Fernandez will be turned over to the military so that these could be checked for intelligence value.
Among them, he said, were a laptop and the USBs.
“The military intelligence will check on them. We also would like to find out if they have connections with some candidates based on the documents that would be extracted from the laptop and USBs,” said Albayalde.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier said that they were monitoring various candidates who are reportedly supporting the NPA.