MANILA - President Aquino on Monday said the arrests of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, the highest ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), deals a serious blow to the communist underground movement.
Aquino confirmed the arrest of the Tiamzons is the high-profile arrest he hinted at in an interview with the Malacañang Press Corps last week.
"It wasn't a surprise because I did mention it… I believe it does deliver a serious blow. And it shows you also the competency of our security forces. Mrs. Tiamzon, I understand, escaped jail in '89; was set free in '94," he said.
Aquino also appeared to rebut the communist group's claim that the couple should not have been arrested as they are consultants in the peace process covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
"When they were arrested, the report that I read in the papers says talks of hand grenades and pistols being in their possession, something which normally does not occupy the belongings of a peace negotiator," he said.
The President also took in stride possible retaliatory attacks, pointing out that the attacks have persisted.
The Chief Executive also does not see any impact on the stalled peace talks with the communist group because the CPP-NPA-NDF walked out of the peace negotiations.
"They have walked out of the peace talks, if you remember correctly. Does it have an impact? I don't think so. It really depends on their willingness to go back to the bargaining table. The attacks have not ceased. So, what are they saying? For them, it's business as usual I guess," he said.
Asked if the arrest of the couple would bring government closer to stamping out insurgency, the President said the nation must deal with the root causes of the problem.
"Of course, that's why we are focused on empowering our people especially in trying to move them out of poverty in the various interventions that we have been doing from education, to health, to livelihood, to housing, to disaster preparedness and so on and so forth," he said.