ARMY troopers on Wednesday evening shot dead the top Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army leader in Mindanao following a gunbattle in Mabini, Davao de Oro, officials said yesterday.
Major General Ernesto C. Torres Jr., commanding general of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, identified the slain suspect as Menandro Villanueva alias ‘Bok/Nelson, tagged as the secretary of the CPP/NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee and commanding officer of the NPA’s National Operations Command.
Torres said Villanueva, also a known member of the CPP Politburo department or the principal policy-making committee of the underground movement and secretary of the CPP/NPA’s Komisyong Mindanao, was killed in a gunfight with soldiers from the Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade headed by Brigadier Gen. Jesus P. Durante III.
“I am commending all Agila troopers especially the 1001st IB for their outstanding performance in pursuing the leadership of the CPP/NPA’s SMRC and Komisyong Mindanao or KOMMID,” the Army general said.
Durante said the suspect was killed in a clash with his men in Barangay Libudon in Mabini, Davao de Oro on Wednesday evening.
The firefight erupted after a concerned citizen reported to the local Army headquarters the presence of armed rebels disrupting the peace in their area.
Soldiers who were immediately dispatched to the site later clashed with a group of NPA guerrillas. Villanueva, reportedly armed with a high-powered weapon, suffered gunshot wounds in the body and died on the spot during the exchange of gunfire.
His other armed companions are still being hunted as of press time.
Villanueva was described as one of the founding members of the NPA in Mindanao during the early 70s together with the late Edgar Jopson.
Durante said the slain suspect used to be an activist during his student years in Ateneo de Manila and joined the Kabataan Makabayan. The suspect later joined the underground movement when the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972.
“Villanueva supervised the operations of the CPP/NPA in the whole of Mindanao and directly controlled the operations of the New People’s Army as head of the National Operations Command of the NPA,” he said.
“The 51 years reign of terror of Menandro Villanueva is finally over. His victims were finally given justice,” he added in referring to the latter who is the subject of several warrants of arrest for multiple murder, double frustrated murder, arson, robbery with intimidation, and rebellion among others.
The official likewise renewed his call on other NPA members in Mindanao to surrender and take advantage of the government’s comprehensive livelihood program that will allow them to return to the mainstream of the society and feed their families.
“Surrender now while you still can. Don’t wait to suffer the same fate as Menandro Villanueva. The government is always willing to accept you if you decide to return to the folds of the law.” Brig. Gen. Durante said.
Torres echoed the statement of Durante as he vowed a continuing all-out Army effort to neutralize more wanted CPP/NPA personalities and convince the rest to yield peacefully to authorities.
“This is a clear manifestation that the CPP/NPA in the whole Mindanao is losing ground. Mindanao’s most wanted terrorist is now finally neutralized by your Agila Troopers. They have nowhere to hide because the masses are already fed up with the abuses and extortion they perpetrated for more than five decades.
The death of Menandro Villanueva signals that the end of the Communist insurgency in Mindanao is already at hand.” Torres said.
Troops from the Army’s 1001st Brigade also clashed with the same armed group last Christmas Eve killing Anna Sandra Reyes alias ‘Kaye,’ tagged as the secretary of the Regional White Area Committee of the CPP/NPA’s Southern Mindnaao Regional Committee.
Torres said they are still pursuing other high-ranking CPP/NPA officials in Mndanao including one Eric Casilao alias ‘Ka Wally/Elian’ and his party wife May Casilao alias ‘Gab. With Alfred P. Dalton