TACLOBAN CITY- The recent arrest of an alleged top leader of the communist’ armed group operating in Northern Samar was considered as a big blow by the government forces to the rebel movement in the province.
On July 13, Marieta Bartolo,46, identified to be the front secretary of Metro 1, SRC Emporium, said to be a unit of the New People’s Army operating in the towns of Pambujan, San Roque, Silvino Lubos, Las Navas, Mondragon, and Catarman, the provincial capital of Northern Samar by combined elements of the 803rd Infantry Brigade and the provincial police personnel.
The arrest of Bartolo came at a time that the peace negotiations between the national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines- National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) have bogged down.
Northern Samar remains to have strong presence of NPA members.
Captain Ryann Velez, civil-military operations officer of the 803rd IB based in Catarman, said that the arrest of Bartolo was a big blow to the armed movement considering that she is considered to be a high-ranking official.
“Her arrest is a victory to us. But at the same time, we are not taking the sole credit of her eventual arrest as we received help from the police and the people in the community that led to her and her companions’ arrests,” Velez, in a phone interview, said.
Velez said that Bartolo was arrested on board a vehicle owned by Ruth Figueroa, former ABC (association of barangay chairmen) president of Catarman in Barangay Bankerojan of said town at about 4:30 pm.
Figueroa, who is the incumbent chairwoman of UEP Zone 3, was also identified by government forces as the provincial leader of Bayan-Muna, tagged by Armed Forces as a front of the communist group.
Also arrested were Danny Basiloy,36, and a resident of UEP Zone 3; Emboy Loberiano, 21, a a resident of Brgy. Cal-igang, Catarman; and Gil Mijares, 45 of Brgy. Ipil-Ipil, Catarman and said to be the driver of the vehicle.
“They were from the house of Figueroa and were on their way to the Catarman proper when they were arrested,” Velez said.
“We cannot say yet what their relationship to each other as they refused to answer questions during their interrogation by the police. But considering that Bartolo is a high-ranking leader of the movement, we can just guess that they knew each other and probably belong to the same movement,” he added.
Seized from the suspects were six units of different firearms and cash worth P330,000, among others.
A complaint of illegal possession of firearms were filed against all four suspects before the Provincial Prosecutors’ Office hours after they were arrested.
A complaint of obstruction of justice was also filed against Figueroa and their three male companions.
At the time of the incident, the government forces were tailing the vehicle where the suspects were on board to serve warrants for murder, double murder, and frustrated murder, among others, against the alleged NPA leader. An informant provided a tip that Bartolo was on board of the said vehicle.
However, instead of stopping the vehicle, the suspects continued to sped off which resulted for the authorities to hit the tires of the vehicle which led to the arrest of the suspects.
Except for Figueroa who is now confined at the Northern Samar Provincial Hospital after suffering a mild stroke while undergoing mug shots, Bartolo and the three male companions are detained at the lock-up facility of the Northern Samar Provincial headquarters. (JOEY A. GABIETA)