PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said on Monday, January 23, 2023, that they are taking advantage of the “breakdown” within the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) due to leadership issues following the death of its founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.

In a press conference, Azurin said the leadership of CPP-NPA is currently experiencing a breakdown of communication due to a leadership vacuum, noting that they have yet to decide who would fill up key positions in the communist rebels’ top hierarchy.

“Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa nila malaman who will take over doon sa posisyon na naiwanan or nabakante ni Joma Sison. Wala pang malinaw kung sino ‘yung liderato na papalit and the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is taking advantage of the situation because we wanted na dadami pa ‘yung unti-unti na magbabalik loob sa ating pamahalaan doon sa panawagan ng Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr. na ‘yung unity,” he said.

(Until now, they have not known who will take over the position left or vacated by Joma Sison. It is not yet clear who the leadership will replace and the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) are taking advantage of the situation because we wanted more and more people who will gradually return to our government at the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that’s unity.)

“So this is an opportunity for the government to take advantage in the ongoing struggle to take over the seat of power of the CPP-NPA kung meron man,” he added.

Sison died in December 2022 at the age of 83 while in exile in the Netherlands, where he had been staying for decades.

Azurin said there had been reports that either of the Tiamzon couple, Benito and William, is eyed to replace Sison.

The couple was reported to have been killed in a clash with soldiers in Catbalogan City in August 2022, although there was no solid confirmation on their reported deaths.

Benito is a National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant and the vice chairman, executive committee member, and political bureau member of the CPP-NPA-NDF, while Wilma is the CPP secretary general, executive committee member, and political bureau member of the CPP-NPA-NDF, NDFP negotiating panel national consultant, and the National Finance Commission secretary.

The couple who were facing various charges over kidnapping, frustrated murder and serious illegal detention were arrested in March 2014 in Cebu but were released on bail in August 2016.

Earlier, defense and security experts said the death of Sison is a major blow to the organization since there are no other leaders who have his charisma.

The National Government, through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), has been pursuing localized peace talks with the communist rebels, which reportedly led to the surrender of hundreds of CPP-NPA fighters and supporters over the past few years.

From 89 guerrilla fronts recorded in 2016, the AFP said it already went down to 24 or 23 in which only five were remaining active or capable of conducting any actions.

From around 20,000 members at the peak the group was left now with only around 2,112 members while the number of their firearms diminished to around 1,800.

The AFP said the CPP-NPA is losing not only its tactical battles but also their relevance due to the continuous decrease of their forces. (SunStar Philippines)