Alleged NPA leader arrested on rebellion charges

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 4) — Authorities arrested an alleged leader of the New People's Army in Central Luzon on the basis of an arrest warrant for rebellion Friday.

The Philippine National Police identified the suspect as Jose Bernardino, who was arrested in a joint police and military operation in Barangay Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga.

"Bernardino is the subject of a warrant of arrest issued by Hon. Paul Attolba Jr., Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 30 of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya in 2018 for the crime of Rebellion," the PNP said in a statement.

But according to leftist groups, Bernardino has served as a union organizer for a long time. Kilusang Mayo Uno said the arrest was illegal, conducted by men in plain clothes who identified themselves as members of the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

The PNP said Bernardino is the Regional White Area Committee Secretary of NPA's Central Luzon Regional Committee. It added that a .45 caliber pistol, grenade, phones, sim cards, and "subversive documents" were recovered from him.

PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas ordered intensified manhunt operations against members of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which has waged a five-decade insurgency. The National Democratic Front represents rebels in peace talks with the government which collapsed in 2017 as both sides accused each other of ceasefire violations.

Human rights group Karapatan decried the arrest of red-tagged individuals, or those wrongfully accused of being members of the NPA, including peasant organizer Amanda Echanis, who is now detained with her one-month-old son.

RELATED: Karapatan files complaint vs. 3 anti-communist task force officials, Mocha Uson over red-tagging