By Francis Wakefield
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Monday announced the arrest of a high-ranking New People’s Army (NPA) leader and four others during an operation in Northern Samar on Friday.
Capt. Ryann R. Velez, civil-military operations officer of the 803rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade under the 8th Infantry Division, identified the arrested NPA leader as Marieta Bartolo alias Tayang.
The four other captured suspects were identified as Ruth Martirez Figueroa, Bayan Muna president-Northern Samar and incumbent barangay chairwoman of UEP Zone 3, Catarman, Northern Samar; Emboy Loberiano, alias Bagyo; Danny Basiloy and Gil Martirez.
Velez said Bartolo is the front secretary of Metro 1, Sub-regional Committee Emporium, an NPA unit operating in the municipalities of Pambujan, San Roque, Silvino Lobos, Las Navas, Mondragon, and Catarman, all in Northern Samar.
The group is said to be responsible for the atrocities against military and police personnel and civilians in the areas.
Velez said that based on a report he received, an interagency operation conducted by troops of the 803rd IB and Northern Samar Provincial Police Office at Barangay Bangkerohan, Catarman, Northern Samar, at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, led to arrest of Bartolo and the four others.
The interagency operation was made possible by virtue of two arrest warrants issued by the Gamay Regional Trial Court Branch 38 for the crime of murder under case 12-148 and frustrated murder under criminal case 12-149 against Bartolo.
Velez said three Cal. 45 pistols, a Cal. 38 pistol, a Cal. 40 Glock pistol and one KG9mm pistol were seized from the vehicle used by the suspects. Other items found were 12 envelopes with P30,000 each and subversive documents.
Army Col. Ramil M. Bitong, commander of the 803rd IB, said the recovered cash is believed to be “grease money” to support the candidacy of Ruth Martirez Figueroa for ABC president of Catarman, Northern Samar.
He said what is more alarming is the collaboration of Bartolo and Figueroa, who were identified as leaders of the NPA and Bayan Muna.
It is believed that Bartolo raised the funds to allegedly ensure Figueroa as ABC president.
Atal commends troops
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Paul Talay Atal, commander of the AFP Central Command, commended troops from the 8th ID and their counterparts from the Police Regional Office 8 of the Philippine National Police, for arresting Bartolo.
“This feat is undoubtedly a big step forward in our journey to bring peace in many of our insurgent-affected communities. Ms. Bartolo made the right choice by not resisting arrest. She will be given due process and she will have all the opportunities to give her side on the many criminal cases lodged against her,” Atal said in a statement.
“Our democratic space affords her equal protection of the law amidst her status, being a top leader of the communist group in Eastern Visayas,” he added.
However, Atal said what concerns them is the undeniable link between a local government official and a communist leader, and their attempt to undermine the democratic process.
“Indeed, truth finds its way to reveal itself: Ruth Figueroa, an elected barangay official and the head of the Bayan Muna chapter in the province of Northern Samar, appears to be closely working with Ms. Bartolo. With 12 cash-filled envelopes to ensure Figueroa’s election as chairman of the Association of Barangay Captains in Catarman, the underground movement, in this particular case, is penetrating and undermining the government through legal yet underhanded scheme,” Atal said.
“We have yet to hear a word of condemnation from Figueroa’s organization on the sins committed by the communist rebels after years of consistently attacking and maligning the government security forces.”
“With this development, the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will exhaust all efforts and resources to sustain this victory and finally give our people the safe environment they long deserve. Once again, let me extend our invitation to our lost brothers to join us in the peaceful path towards peace and development. This is our only way forward,” he concluded.