MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday denied that the captors of communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon made off with P1.5 million in cash, part of which was intended for typhoon ''Yolanda'' victims.
Major General John Bonafos, AFP's Central Command chief, denied that the Tiamzons had in their possession P1.5 million during their arrest in Cebu last March 22.
A report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Tiamzon couple's lawyer, Edre Olalia, as saying that the couple only raised the matter now because it was only until recently that they were able to reconcile the amount of money supposedly taken from them.
Bonafos, however, said all items recovered from the Tiamzon couple and five others, who were arrested while on board two vehicles, have all been accounted for.
Bonafos said the money recovered from the Tiamzons only amounted to P23,545.35: P13,130.05 from the Toyota Innova and P10,415.30 from the Hyundai Starex.
He said inventory receipts were issued to and signed by Nona Castillo and Rex Villaflor, two of the five arrested companions of the Tiamzons.
''The Tiamzons are blaming us for the loss of the money which I think they have spent on their lavish lifestyle. While their comrades are up in the mountains, they are living inside a mansion that is fully air conditioned. This can be verified by the soldiers, policemen and media friends who were there at their not-so safe house during the raid,'' Bonafos said.
Bonafos added it is ironic for the couple to claim that such an amount was at their disposal ''while their fighters have a meager 'supamil' (support to families) of P800-1,500 per month."
''This is indeed an eye-opener for the NPA to lay down their arms and once again return to living normal lives," he said.
In the same Inquirer report, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said the couple told the group that the P1 million was intended for victims of typhoon Yolanda, while the P500,000 was their ''operations and medical budget."
The military earlier said Benito is the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People's Army, while his wife, Wilma, is the the secretary-general of the CPP-NPA.