THE top military commander in Calabarzon has confirmed that they are again tracking down the whereabouts of Tirso ‘Ka Bart’ Alcantara, the most feared -- and most respected -- leader of the communist movement in Southern Tagalog.
In a talk with this writer, MGen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry ‘Scout Ranger’ Division, said they have been pursuing Alcantara for several months now.
Alcantara was widely credited for the expansion of the NPA in Southern Tagalog since going underground in the ‘70s and until his capture by the military in Lucena City, Quezon province, in early 2011. At the time of his arrest, he was the spokesman and commander of the ‘Melito Glor Command,’ the main fighting force of the guerillas in the region.
Parayno said their manhunt for Alcantara also led them to the discovery last May of the ‘revival’ of the so-called ‘Umiray Complex’ near the boundary of Quezon and Bulacan.
The Umiray Complex once served as the ‘national training center’ for all NPA recruits until it was discovered and dismantled by the 2nd Infantry Division in 2007 under then MGen. Jorge Segovia.
“I have placed one battalion there now (Umiray), to guard the place,” Parayno said, adding the intelligence and evidence they have gathered showed that Alcantara is again back in armed struggle.
In all, Parayno said at least three Army battalions are now mobilized to hunt down Alcantara and his group.
The official also said the recovered war materiel seized by elements of the 202nd Brigade under BGen. Arnulfo Buros at a farm in Teresa, Rizal, last September 25 and the other documents they seized, again pointed to the presence of Alcantara, who again managed to escape.
Also avoiding arrest with Alcantara is Armando ‘Ka Patrick/Romano’ Lazarte, now the secretary of the NPA in Calabarzon. It was not clear if Lazarte is also in concurrent capacity as front secretary for the province of Rizal.
Alcantara and other top NPA leaders were among those ordered freed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte when he became president in 2016, in an effort to forge a ceasefire with the communist group.
For a while, Alcantara kept himself busy by promoting the peace process and even visited the National Press Club (NPC) several times, the last as one of its main guests during the club’s 64th anniversary celebration in October 2016.
Two months later, Alcantara granted People’s Tonight a long interview at a restaurant in Quezon City, where he claimed he would “surrender” should the peace process break down again.
With the collapse of the peace talk, Pres. Duterte ordered the re-arrest of Alcantara and other ranking communist leaders, forcing them to go underground again.