Tacloban City—Top communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon were reportedly killed in a boat explosion in Catbalogan City, Samar on Monday morning, an initial report showed.
The Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas, however, has yet to confirm that the two leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army were the ones killed in the explosion.
Armed Forces of the Philippines – Joint Task Form Storm (AFP-JTF) commander Maj. Gen. Edgardo De Leon confirmed, “indeed there was a waterborne interdiction operation conducted against a hostile motorized boat.”
He said the AFP is currently verifying the personalities involved in the boat explosion even as he acknowledged that there was “a report of an apparent movement of a group of NPA members traveling by sea.”
Benito Tiamzon was reportedly a former secretary general of the CPP’s Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.
Authorities said he later rose to become chairman of the Communist Party and head of the group’s executive committee, while Wilma is the CPP’s secretary general and also a member of the central executive committee.
Charges were filed against the couple in 1990, but the Tiamzons were only arrested in Cebu in March 2014.
They were granted bail in August 2016 when the government resumed the peace negotiations during the initial term of then-President Rodrigo Duterte.
After the collapse of the peace talks in 2017, the couple reportedly went into hiding.
In November 2020, a Quezon City court convicted the Tiamzon couple and sentenced them to up to 40 years in prison for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of then Lt. Abraham Claro Casis and three other soldiers in Quezon province in 1988.
“A tipster sent information that a group of armed individuals boarded a motorized boat with boxes from a shoreline north of Catbalogan City.
Soldiers immediately conducted a water-borne interdiction operation at the reported vicinity.”
“Upon approach to the suspected boat, a megaphone was used to advise the passengers to submit for plain view inspection,” said JTF spokesperson Captain Ryan Layug.
Layug said passengers from the motorized boat fired shots toward the government troops.
“An encounter ensued. During the gunfight, for reasons still being determined, the hostile boat suddenly exploded,” Layug said.