THE arrest of the top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) on Negros Island and his comrades on March 18 was the latest in the government's efforts in the Visayas to run after the communist terrorists fighting a more than five decade-old armed struggle. Ramon Patriarca alias "Using," deputy secretary and finance officer of Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros, along with his two cohorts, was arrested during a joint military and police operation in Barangay Su-ay, Himamaylan City in southern Negros Occidental.

As reported, Patriarca was facing 10 counts of murder before the Regional Trial Court Branch 47 in Tagbilaran City, Bohol with a warrant of arrest issued by Presiding Judge Suseco Arcam. Back in 2009, Patriarca, then-deputy secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas of the NPA, was arrested for rebellion charges in Consolacion, Cebu but was released in 2014 after the court dismissed the charges filed against him. According to the military, the neutralization of Patriarca and his cohorts was another huge blow to the CPP-NPA and its undeniably weakened force on Negros Island.

What came to our attention, however, was one of Patriarca's cohorts, a 28-year-old female, Carmen Jonahville Matarlo alias Loisa/Avon. A native of Poblacion, Argao, Cebu and a cum laude graduate of mass communications from the University of the Philippines Cebu, Matarlo was also a vice chairman of the Kabataan party-list Cebu chapter. Allegedly, she belonged to the Regional Communication of Central Negros Front 2 of the terrorist group upon her arrest.

Matarlo seemed familiar and reminded us of Myles Albasin, also a mass communications graduate from UP Cebu and was among six suspected NPA rebels arrested during an encounter with government forces in Mabinay, Negros Oriental. Just like Albasin, for someone so young and intelligent, Matarlo could have embarked on greater opportunities in employment or pursued anything she wanted other than being a staff member of Patriarca, a person with a warrant of arrest for murder charges. On deeper thoughts, it was alarming how the idealism and dynamism of these two young ladies and many others in similar situations were capitalized on to encourage armed struggle against the government. It was their wrong choice that got them too deeply and irretrievably involved in a lost cause and with someone like Ramon Patriarca in guise as peace advocate and human rights worker, who had recruited and deceived them and destroyed a bright future waiting for these young women. Fortunately, they had been found and arrested alive rather than dead in a clash with the government forces.

What transpired may be a lesson to the remaining members of the communist terrorist group to either go back to the fold of law and surrender, get caught and jailed, or die in an encounter. And just like Ramon Patriarca, no matter how he escaped his previous rebellion case, he still ended up getting arrested with the recovery of firearms and NPA documents. No matter how long it took, they still ended up getting caught, dead or luckily alive.

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And in this National Women's Month, what happened to a number of female NPA members who had been caught, jailed and, worst, killed may serve as a wake-up call to the remaining victims of communist deception to now come to grips with reality on how they had been used and radicalized for a lost cause, wasting their gifts and squandering their opportunities. It was now or never!

Jeffrey "Ka Eric" Celiz

Chairman, Sambayanan