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Capture of top Negros rebel ‘historic’: Army official
« on: August 04, 2019, 03:19:25 PM »
Capture of top Negros rebel ‘historic’: Army official
By Nanette Guadalquiver  March 27, 2019, 4:14 pm Share

BACOLOD CITY -- The fall of Francisco “Frank” Fernandez, the highest ranking communist rebel leader on Negros Island, is historic and not just an ordinary arrest, a Philippine Army official here has said.

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade (303IB) based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, said in a press briefing here on Wednesday that the capture of the 71-year-old insurgent had been planned for about three decades already.

“Personally, I am very happy. I’ve been running after Frank Fernandez since I was a lieutenant. I’ve waited this long.

It’s almost 30 years,” said Arevalo, who was assigned as intelligence and operations officer in Negros in the 1990s.

During his tenure in the two Negros provinces for many years, his troops attempted to capture Fernandez several times, he shared.

With four standing arrest warrants for murder, Fernandez, secretary of the New People’s Army (NPA) Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros and consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), was arrested with his partner Cleofe Lagtapon, 66, in Liliw, Laguna in the morning of March 24.

“This is historic, not only for Negros, also but for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), because I believe Frank Fernandez is one of the last living true icons of the CPP-NPA-NDF, and he is the ‘biggest fish’ caught in Negros Island,” he added.

He noted that Fernandez is number one while Lagtapon is number two in the 303IB’s order of battle.

Arevalo said the fresh “project” to capture Fernandez started last year, and they were able to get an initial development in October when they learned that he was staying somewhere in Luzon.

“It took some time before we got a breakthrough on the location of Frank Fernandez," he said, adding that a big break came last February when they followed up some leads provided by civilians.

On February 10, the intelligence units learned that Fernandez was “somewhere in Laguna,” and military operatives in Negros went to Laguna to conduct a follow-up operation on February 20.

“On February 22, our operatives were able to confirm his location and had an eyeball of Frank Fernandez,” Arevalo said.

He pointed out that the Army’s efforts became a support to law enforcement operation wherein the Philippine National Police carried out the apprehension of Fernandez, based on the warrant of arrests issued by the courts.

“It was actually a police operation because he is a criminal, more than a rebel,” Arevalo said.

The Army official said that after Fernandez’s arrest, he was brought to the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City for a medical check-up.

During the inquest proceedings on March 25, two lawyers, Ma. Kristina Conti and Julian Oliva, represented Fernandez, he added.

Arevalo said that for now, Fernandez, who has been undergoing a dialysis due to kidney failure, is under hospital arrest with Lagtapon "somewhere in Luzon".

“We’d like to assure his family that he is being taken cared well,” he added. (PNA)