Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr. (left), of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate

MANILA -- So what else is new.

This was the reaction of Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), after Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Carlos Zarate and progressive human rights group Karapatan again scored the military and police for its legitimate operations in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental on Thursday afternoon which resulted in the arrest of several underground members of communist front organizations.

"Rep. Carlos Zarate is once again complaining of government harassment of progressive groups with the arrest of underground members of the CPP NPA in four different underground offices run by Bayan Muna, Gabriela, KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), and ACT (Alliance of Concerned Teachers)," he said in a statement forwarded to the Philippine News Agency Friday.

Zarate, in earlier reports, denied claims by the security forces that of those arrested individuals, numbering to 62, including 10 minors, were undergoing firearms and explosive training. Also seized were assorted weapons and documents.

Zarate also scored the conduct of the operation as it was held during the eve of a long weekend as to ensure that the courts are closed and that the planted evidence cannot be challenged.

Parlade, who is also Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations, said Zarate used the same argument in defending Manabo Datu Kaylo Bontulan of the PASAKA Lumad Confederation during a previous press conference with former Gabriela Party-list Representative Luz Ilagan.

Undated photo of Rep. Carlos Zarate (extreme left), Social Welfare Undersecretary Luz Ilagan, and the late Datu Kaylo Bontulan in a press conference early this year opposing the closure Salugpungan schools. (Contributed photo)

Zarate's efforts to defend Bontulan went to naught as the Lumad leader,  member of the New People's Army (NPA) -- armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -- was killed in April 2019 following an encounter with government troops.

"So where is this argument of Rep. Zarate leading? That this is another effect of 'red tagging' of groups critical of government policies? Let's identify a few of those captured and see if (CPP founding chair) Jose Maria "Joma" Sison and the NTF ELCAC is consistent with these groups which 'Joma' identified as his progressive allies," he added.

Parlade said one of those arrested in the Bacolod City operations was Romulo Bito-on known as "Muloy", who is working above ground as Deputy Secretary for Education Komiteng Rehiyon (KR)-Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor.

Bito-on is also known as "Text", "Misoy" and "Derby" by the communist rebel ranks because he was former Platoon Leader, Regional Security Force/Sentro de Gravidad (SDG) of the CPP-NPA.

"To illustrate further their duplicitous nature as legal front and underground at the same time, Romulo was arrested with Analyn/Memalyn Bito-on alias 'Dobol' or Chin Chin to fellow teachers with Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). But Analyn is also Secretary of Regional Unified White Area Committee KR-NCBS (Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor) More importantly she is also Finance (Officer) of KR-NCBS, so that husband and wife won't let go of the funds of their regional party," he added.

Parlade added that the Bito-on couple was nabbed in Barangay Taculing, Bacolod.

While teachers in Negros know Analyn as Secretary-General of ACT Negros, a legal organization, he said what these educators don't know is that Bito-on is also the Secretary of the "Katipunan ng mga Gurong Makabayan" (KAGUMA) for the entire Visayas.

"KAGUMA" is the CPP underground party group hiding within ACT,” he said.

Aside from these positions in the communist rebels' legal and underground organizations, Analyn is also a platoon leader of the CPP-NPA's Leonardo Panaligan Command, Parlade revealed.

"Not too far was the arrest of Noli Rosales alias 'Talisa' in Barangay Bata. He is the Deputy Secretary for Trade Union of RUWAC (Rural Workers' Association) KR-NCBS. That is his current legal cover. But 'Talisa' was a former member of Sentro De Grabidad, Far South Regional Party Committee before he was assigned to NCBS, because his cover in Mindanao was already blown. This is probably why Zarate is so interested in this case, the former being a close associate of Rosales, as he was dead NPA Datu Kaylo," he added.

Also arrested with Rosales is John Milton Lozande alias "Butch" and is known as the Second Deputy Secretary for United Front of KR-NCBS and National Chair of Unyon ng mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), another legal front organization of farmers aligned with KMU and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and other communist front organizations.

"But the illegal in him is his being a former intelligence officer of Regional Operations Command (ROC), KR-NCBS, CPP NPA. What this means is that he is very much involved in the series of killings of policemen, farmers, and progressive members in Negros, as narrated by James Durimon alias 'Juros'. Durimon is a SPARU (Special Partisan Unit) of NPA Negros who was recruited since age 14 until he surrendered last month to tell his story," he said.

Also arrested in the same operation was Proceso Quiatzon, coordinator of Karapatan-Negros, which led Parlade to ask what a human rights defender was doing in an NPA safe house with communist rebels.

"Now Karapatan's (Secretary-General) Cristina Palabay has a big problem how to explain all these. Karapatan-Negros has been bailing out captured NPAs ever since. In Mindanao, Karapatan Secretary Gen Honey Mae Suazo, wife of NPA leader Donald Suazo, secured the release of Far South Mindanao Regional Party Committee head Elizalde Cañete alias Ka Jinggoy. In 2012 during the term of Karapatan-Negros Secretary General Fred Caña, he bailed out NPA ROC Head Romeo Nanta. They also bailed out NPA Northern Negros head Hernando Llorente and NPA wife Faith Basergo. Now Palabay's coordinator is the one captured with these terrorists, even as they continue to deny their involvement with CPP terrorist acts. Bailing them all out will be a big problem especially after Karapatan's funds from Europe have dried up," he added.

Another captured CPP-NPA personality, according to Parlade, is Anne Villasica Kruger alias "Em-em" –known as Deputy Secretary for "Cultural/Propaganda" of KR-NCBS and Deputy Secretary for Social Media.

"She is also a former chair of BIEN (BPO Industry Employees Network) South Manila. Activist? No, she is a former political instructor of an NPA Sandatahang Yunit sa Platun (SYP) Southern Luzon Regional Political Committee," he added.

BIEN, he said, is an extension of CPP-front KMU in the thriving BPO labor sector.

He said these individuals were arrested in three different barangays and four different underground safehouses by joint military and police operatives by virtue of four Search Warrants issued by the court for violation of Republic Act 10591 otherwise known as Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition and RA 9516 or Illegal Possession of Explosives.

Also seized from them were 24 assorted firearms of different caliber, including a KG submachine gun, fragmentation grenades, and terrorist documents, items not commonly used by progressive activists as they claimed themselves to be.

"I wonder what  NUPL's (National Union of Peoples' Lawyers) Edre Olalia and Neri Colmenares has to say about these. Planted evidence?" Parlade asked. "Let's see who will red-tag who when they raise their clench fist during the presentation to media next week. Better yet, let's see what Joma Sison has to say against the arrest of his armed 'social activists' which he also calls his progressive allies.”

He also attributed the precision of the raid against the communist underground members in Bacolod to the seamless coordination with the NTF ELCAC Legal Cluster with other agencies which resulted in the suspects' arrest, all unharmed.

"The raid was conducted with precision so they complain it was Gestapo-like. How lucky these people are the NTF ELCAC Legal Cluster interagency coordination and operations was seamless (so) they did not have time to react and shoot. They wish they can invoke EJK (extra-judicial killings) so there is no need for them to raise bail money. But they are so alive, thanks to democracy and this government's respect and adherence to the rule of law," he added.

The CPP-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)