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Communist leaders fall in Philippines

MANILA, April 20, 2011 (AFP) – Two top communist rebel leaders in the Philippines surrendered while a third was captured Wednesday in a fresh blow to the insurgency amid ongoing peace talks, the army said.

Marvin Capones and his wife, Gelita, gave themselves up to the army on the central island of Samar claiming they were tired of fighting, the military said in a statement.

Capones was the vice commander of the New People’s Army’s (NPA) regional command in Samar, while his wife was the medical officer.

“He directed the operational command and was in charge of the armed component,” regional army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Vestuir told AFP.

“Their surrender is a big blow to the revolutionary movement.”

Meanwhile, an intelligence officer of the NPA’s rebel front on Negros island in a nearby area of the central Philippines was also arrested.

Diro Sanchez was wanted for various crimes, including extortion, the army said in a statement without giving other details.

The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969.

From a peak of over 25,000 fighters in the 1980s, the military and other defense experts believe it currently has less than 5,000 guerrillas.

The government resumed peace talks with the rebels in February after a seven-year lull and both sides said after the first round of negotiations they believed a peace pact could be signed by June, 2012.

Chief government negotiator Alex Padilla told AFP Wednesday he believed the latest surrenders indicated divisions among the rebels’ ranks, and would bolster his team’s position in the talks.

“It should give renewed confidence on the government side,” Padilla said.

He said the next round of formal negotiations hosted by Norway would likely be in June.

The military often claims victories whenever it arrests NPA leaders, but analysts say the guerrillas remain a deadly force.

NPA attacks last year killed 187 soldiers, police and pro-government militiamen, as well as dozens of civilians caught in crossfire, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a February report.

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