Philippines' highest-ranking communist rebel held: military

Philippines' highest-ranking communist rebel held: military

MANILA - The top communist guerrilla leader in the Philippines has been arrested in a blow to the decades-old Maoist rebellion following the detention of his predecessors last year, officials said Tuesday.

Adelberto Silva is considered the "highest ranking" leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its New People's Army (NPA) armed wing, a military statement said.

"He is the overall orchestrator of rebel movements in the entire country. He organises the activities of the rebels," military spokesman Brigadier-General Joselito Kakilala told AFP.

"This (arrest) will have a huge impact. This will disrupt their strategic direction and programmes," Kakilala added.

Philippine security forces in March last year arrested CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, the party's secretary-general.

After an armed campaign that has claimed thousands of lives across the country, Kakilala said the NPA now had "less than 4,000" fighters.

Kakilala said the low-profile Silva, whose age and personal background was not disclosed nor publicly known, took over the CPP-NPA leadership after the Tiamzons' arrest.

Police said Silva was arrested at his hideout in the town of Bacoor on Manila's southern outskirts late Monday along with another man and a woman.

He had been living in the house for a year and had posed as a businessman, said a police report.

Police said they seized electronic devices, grenades, and documents at the hideout.

Silva will stand trial for the murder of 15 people whose remains were recovered from a mass grave on the central island of Leyte in 1985, the military said.

The government alleges the 15 were abducted and then murdered by the NPA on suspicion of spying for the military.

The Tiamzons refused to enter pleas at their trial last month for the same killings, so the court entered "not guilty" pleas on their behalf.

Repeated efforts by successive governments to arrange peace talks have failed to end the communist rebellion, which has claimed about 30,000 lives by official estimates.

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