MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Saturday said the death of 83-year-old Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison in the Netherlands on Friday would crumble the leadership of the remaining insurgents.

"The death of Jose Maria Sison is but a symbol of the crumbling hierarchy of the CPP-NPA-NDF (New People's Army-National Democratic Front) which he founded to violently put himself in power," the agency said.

The DND said Sison's death also deprived the Filipino people of the opportunity to bring this fugitive to justice under the country's laws.

"Sison was responsible for the deaths of thousands of our countrymen. Innocent civilians, soldiers, police, child and youth combatants died because of his bidding," it said.

With this development, the DND is calling on the few remaining believers of Sison who have unwittingly turned themselves into the enemy of the people and are still blinded by the deceased's duplicitous and failed promises, to turn their backs on the violent and false ideology of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

"Five decades of brutal and bloody aggression against the state and the Filipino people have led to nothing but destruction and strife for thousands of Filipinos. A new era without Jose Maria Sison dawns for the Philippines, and we will all be better for it. The greatest stumbling block of peace for the Philippines is gone; let us now give peace a chance," the agency said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Col. Medel Aguilar, for his part, said Sison's death is an opportunity for his successor to turn away from the armed struggle.

"It's an opportunity for his successor if there will be, to chart a new direction in promoting reforms. Hopefully, away from armed struggle," he said when asked about the possible impact of the CPP founder's death.

Also, Aguilar said there were only 2,112 insurgents as of last validation and this figure has declined since then.

He also expressed optimism that Sison's death will further weaken the underground movement.

"The loss of a 'teacher' and 'guiding light' leaves the organization with no purpose and clear direction. But the organization needs to have a good 'teacher' and 'guiding light' who will lead its members away from violence and destruction," Aguilar said. 

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) Public Information Office (PIO) Chief Col. Redrico Maranan said Sison's death is a huge blow to the CPP-NPA-NDF.

While deaths are not causes of joy for anyone, Maranan said he is looking at this development at a "positive note" as a law enforcer.

"It is really a big blow to the CPP-NPA-NDF as they lost the person they are looking as a leader," he said. 

The CPP earlier said the Netherlands-based Sison died around 8:40 p.m. Friday after two weeks of confinement at a hospital.

Sison's death came as the CPP would mark its 54th founding anniversary on Dec. 26. He founded the organization in 1968.

Sison was arrested during the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos -- the father of the incumbent president -- in 1976, along with his wife. They were released from detention in 1986 after then President Corazon Aquino came to power.

In 1987, Sison went on a self-exile in the Netherlands after peace talks with the government stalled. Peace talks were on and off since then until President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the negotiations in November 2017.

The CPP is the political wing of the NPA. (With reports from Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)