MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine security forces arrested the chairman of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and his wife on Saturday, the military said, dealing the biggest blow in years to the decades-old rebel group.
Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, also a senior party officer, were arrested in central Cebu province's Aloguinsan township, said military Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
The arrests came a week before the party's armed wing, the New People's Army, was to mark its 45th anniversary.
The couple face charges of crimes against humanity, including multiple murders, Bautista said in a statement late Saturday. They were taken to a military camp in Cebu.
The statement provided no other details about the arrests. Local media reports said that five other people were arrested along with the Tiamzons.
Bautista said the arrests were "another victory for the combined efforts" of the military and police.
"We call on to the rest of the CPP-NPA members to lay down their arms, abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families and join us in bringing peace and development to our nation," he said.
Tiamzon's wife, the party's secretary-general, was arrested in the early 1990s but escaped from custody.
Many other senior Communist Party leaders have also been killed or captured over the years, including some whom the rebels said were consultants in peace negotiations who were supposed to be immune from arrest while talks were ongoing.