INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday ordered the PNP to launch manhunt operations against communist leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Austria, who were recently convicted by a Quezon City court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
“I have instructed the PNP to intensify the manhunt for these communist terrorists so that they can serve the sentence imposed on them by the court,” Año said in a statement.
Tiamzon and Austria were sentenced to reclusion perpetua (20 to 40 years of imprisonment) by QC-RTC Judge Alfonzo Ruiz II for the 1988 kidnapping of then Lt. Abraham Claro Casis in Quezon. Casis was released by the rebels after more than two months in captivity.
Casis, a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1985, retired from the military last year at the age of 56 with the rank of brigadier general. His last posting was a commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region.
Tiamzon and Austria, the chairman and secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, respectively, were arrested by soldiers and policemen in March 2014 in Aloguinsan town in Cebu by virtue of warrants for various charges.
The couple was released from a custodial facility of the PNP in Camp Crame in August 2016 to pave the way for the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the communists.
A Manila court, where the couple is charge with 15 counts of murder, ordered the re-arrest of the couple in January 2018 following the collapse of the peace negotiations. They are still at-large.
Año, a former Armed Forces chief, said he exerted a lot of efforts in the arrest of the couple in 2014 when he was still the head of the Intelligence Service of the AFP. “I spent almost half of my career looking for this couple,” he said.
Citing the latest intelligence information, Año said the couple is still in the country.
“They cannot run and hide forever. Sooner or later, we will get them again and face their crimes. I am confident that we will see them behind bars soon,” Año said.
He said the conviction of Tiamzon and Austria “is a great victory for the Filipino people because of their crimes against humanity.”
“As top leaders of the Communist Party and its armed wing, New People’s Army, they kidnapped, killed, and tortured so many people and burned so many equipment,” Año said.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, PNP chief Debold Sinas said he has directed the Intelligence Group to coordinate with the Armed Forces in the efforts to re-arrest the couple.
Sinas urged the couple to surrender, saying: “We will be willing to facilitate their surrender and bring them to the appropriate court and jail to serve their sentence.”