Ex-priest turned rebel leader nabbed

Oscar D. Albayalde

Laguna PNP, ISAFP capture ‘elusive’ ‘Ka Frank’

PHILIPPINE National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday announced the capture of three suspected active communist leaders led by former priest-turned Visayas rebel leader Francisco ‘Frank’ Fernandez.

The top PNP official said that the 71-year-old Fernandez alias ‘Ka Frank/Ago/Tatay/Uloy/Pidong/Andot, the Negros National Democratic Front chairman/spokesperson and Regional Deputy Secretary for Organization was arrested along with his wife Cleofe Lagtapon alias ‘Ka Guia/Ella/Pidang/Emay, 66; and Gee-ann Perez alias’ Ka Angie,’ 20, described as a member of the Regional Communications Staff of the Negros NDF.

Police Regional Office 4-A director Chief Superintendent Edward E. Carranza said that members of the Laguna Police Provincial Office’s Provincial Intelligence Branch under Senior Supt. Eliseo Matta, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces and the Manila Police District Intelligence Division  arrested the suspects in Barangay Calumpang in Liliw, Laguna.

Carranza said  the arrests were made  5:!6 a.m. last Sunday on the strength of two warrants of arrest for murder issued against Fernandez by Judge Renato Munoz of the Cadiz City Regional Trial Court Branch 60 in Negros Occidental.   

The Calabarzon police director said that when he was still assigned in Central Visayas, they had already launched a series of operations to get the elusive ‘Ka Frank.’ He said that apparently, Fernandez transferred to Calabarzon region in order to elude government agents.

Fernandez was previously tagged by the military as the most wanted rebel leader in Negros with a P7.8 million bounty on his head. In one of his rare appearances in Negros in 2017, he was with his wife Lagtapon.

Recovered from the suspects where three caliber .45 pistols with three magazines containing 15 live ammunition, three hand grenades and two sling bags and one backpack containing three mobile phones and suspected subversive documents.

The cellphones and the suspected rebel documents will undergo a thorough examination by the police and the military.

For his part Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo B Burgos Jr., commander of the 202nd Infantry (UNIFIER) Brigade, said the one of the arrested rebels’ NPA comrades revealed Fernandez’s current location which was subsequently validated by locals from Nagcarlan who had became suspicious of the former priest and his companions.

He said that Fernandez was a Catholic priest who embraced the NPA ideology in the 1980s and has since been active in the killing of soldiers and Cafgu Active Auxilliaries through SPARU operations particularly in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

“Father Frank” is allegedly primarily responsible for the fatal ambush of Guihulngan’s chief of police sometime in July 2017 as well as the ambush of soldiers early this year.

With Zaida delos Reyes and Gil Aman