MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) believes there is a power struggle inside the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) following the arrest of its leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
Major General Oscar Lactao, AFP's deputy chief of staff for operations, said the recent attacks by the NPA could be related to the leadership vacuum created by the couple's arrest.
''There is a jockeying for leadership so there is power struggle for organization. Some people are also taking advantage of the vacuum created by the arrest within the organization,'' Lactao told ANC's Headstart.
The military said Benito, 63, is the chairman of the CPP and head of its central executive committee.
On the other hand, Wilma, 61, served as the CPP secretary-general and member of the central executive committee. She was also CPP's finance officer.
''The strength of the organization is in the leadership… The wife is the finance officer, she handles the money,'' Lactao said.
AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan Jr. said support for the CPP-NPA has also started to wane, with the supposed surrender of some 72 NPA rebels that followed the Tiamzon couple's arrest.
''The ideological mooring is gone,'' Tutaan said.
The military expects more cases will be filed against the alleged communist leaders now that they are under arrest. Lactao said more people have found the courage to file cases against the Tiamzons after they were arrested.
The Tiamzons were arrested in Cebu last March 22 for charges of violating Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, and Republic Act 9516 or Illegal Possession of Explosives Law.
They are charged with murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder before the regional trial court in Northern Samar. The charges are in relation to the alleged involvement of the Tiamzons in the killing of about 52 civilians in Inopacan, Leyte, whose bodies were supposedly discovered in a mass grave in 2006.
The Tiamzons are also tagged in the abduction of two soldiers.
''During their leadership, they orchestrated the violence. The number of child victims of recruitment - 412 since they assumed leadership… Out of that 15 were killed during battle, 261 surrendered. The number of civilians deliberately killed - 444,'' Lactao said.
''They're recruiting minors as combatants. They're killing civilians, they're burning properties. What is our takeaway from this? They are now becoming a criminal organization rather than a revolutionary organization."
The couple earlier said the government should release them because they are immune against arrest under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, however, said JASIG is not in effect because there are no ongoing peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.
De Lima added the couple's criminal cases have nothing to do with the peace process.
The AFP said from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s, the number of NPA's members is now down to just about 4,000.