Philippine security forces arrested the chairman of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and his wife yesterday, 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 Carcar township, said military chief of staff General 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 murder, Bautista said yesterday. 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.
"We call on 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," Bautista 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 the rebels said were peace negotiations consultants who were supposed to be immune from arrest while talks were ongoing.
Talks to end one of Asia's longest-running Marxist insurgencies collapsed in 2011 due to disagreements between the two sides over releasing several jailed rebel leaders.
The military estimates that the guerilla fighters number about 4,000, down from a peak of about 25,000 in the mid-1980s due to battle losses, surrenders and factionalism.
Early this month, the rebels launched a series of attacks in Davao del Sur province's Matanao township, killing 10 government troops. At least two guerillas were killed and nine captured, according to officials.