Former rebel leader ‘Bilog’ nabbed in Pampanga

SAN FERNANDO, Philippines, February 22 ------ Former Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Rodolfo Salas, known to his New People’s Army (NPA) comrades as “Kumander Bilog,” was arrested by police in Angeles City, Pampanga yesterday morning. Salas, 72, the most wanted man in the country during the martial law years, was arrested at his residence in Barangay Balibago around 5:50 a.m. and later presented to media at Camp Olivas here. Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman, said the warrant for Salas’ arrest was issued by Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 in Manila.

Salas, along with at least 30 other communist leaders and NPA rebels, have been charged in court with 29 counts of murder in connection with the Inopacan massacre in Leyte in the 1980s. Skeletal remains of at least 67 individuals who had gone missing from different parts of the province were unearthed in shallow graves in Barangay Subang Daku in Inopacan town in 2006. They were believed to be among scores of victims of mass purging by the NPA in Leyte on suspicion of being military informers in the final years of the Marcos regime. Banac said Salas did not resist and peacefully surrendered to police who served him the arrest warrant, with barangay officials as witnesses.

Lawmen then searched his house, finding a .45-caliber pistol, a magazine for the pistol and at least 174 rounds of ammunition. With this, Salas faces additional charges of violating Republic Act 10591, the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition, Banac said. Brig. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, Central Luzon police director, said former NPA rebels were the ones who tipped off Salas’ whereabouts to authorities. “The successful arrest of Salas is the result of accurate information provided by former members of the NPA who have returned to the fold of the law,” Sermonia said. Apart from Salas, also named in the warrant issued by Judge Bunyi-Medina on Aug. 28, 2019 are CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, National Democratic Front peace panel negotiator Luis Jalandoni and at least 30 other individuals.