The communist New People's Army (NPA) has admitted to last week's killing of its former chief Romulo Kintanar, saying it was done as "punishment" for numerous crimes committed against the revolutionary movement and the people, a rebel spokesperson yesterday.

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spokesperson, Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal, said Kintanar was charged before the so-called people's court in 1993, found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and was given the maximum penalty of death.

"The NPA has long been ordered to arrest him and present him before the people's court, but he (Kintanar) was evading arrest and even took counter-measures to avoid facing his criminal accountabilities," Rosal stated.

The NPA is the armed wing of the 34-year-old CPP.

Security and military officials promptly criticised Rosal, saying that the insurgents as well as self-exiled CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison should be held criminally liable for the killing.

"The alleged admission means Sison and his men are criminally responsible for the Kintanar killing and should be charged with murdering a non-combatant civilian," said National Security Adviser Roilo Golez.

Armed Forces chief General Dionisio Santiago, on the other hand, said he was not surprised at all by the NPA admission, coming three days after Kintanar was gunned down while having lunch at a Quezon City restaurant.

"It was to be expected because they don't want former comrades to turn against (the movement). He (Kintanar) was a problem for them because he changed court from the communist movement to the government," Santiago said in a phone interview.

As soon as Kintanar was killed, the military pointed to the NPA National Partisan Council Special Operations Group (NSOG) as behind the killing, identifying its leaders as Leo Velasco, Philip Limjoco and Bartolome Melchor.

Kintanar was gunned down in cold blood while having lunch with his bodyguards at a Japanese restaurant in Manila's northern suburb of Quezon City on Thursday.

In "justifying" the death sentence imposed on Kintanar, Rosal said the former rebel chieftain committed at least four crimes even when he (Kintanar) was still active and which continued after leaving the revolutionary movement.

The first was Kintanar's alleged illegal abuse of authority in "masterminding, launching and propagating gangster operations" within the movement.

Rosal noted that Kintanar's special operation groups implemented criminal activities such as kidnap-for-ransom, bank robberies and dollar counterfeiting operations "used for personal indulgence, luxury and decadent lifestyle."

Among these activities were the kidnapping of Japanese businessman Noboyuki Wakaoji in 1986, where Kintanar's group earned $10 million and the abduction of Radyo-Philippines owner Roger Florete in connivance with Arturo Tabara in 1989 wherein it got P15 million ($ 283,018).

Rosal also said Kintanar stashed away party funds amounting to P30 million ($566,037) discovered by the movement when Kintanar was re-arrested in 1991.

Kintanar was released in 1992 and broke ties with CPP chief Sison, not long after.

Likewise, Kintanar instigated other revolutionary leaders such as Tabara and the late Filemon Lagman to go against the policies of the movement, creating the Revolutionary Proletariat Army in 1992 and culminating in the surrender of Tabara and Carapali Lualhati "to the government and outright collusion in military operations" against the revolutionary movement, Rosal said.

Lagman was killed in February 2001 at the University of the Philippines by suspected communist rebels although the NPA has not owned up the killing until today.

Lastly, Rosal said Kintanar became active in the government's campaign against the insurgents and used his internal knowledge in support of counter-insurgency operations, including an attempted assassination plot against Sison in May 2000.

During the Estrada administration, Kintanar was consultant to National Security Adviser Alexander Aguirre.

At the time of his death, he was security consultant to Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo and the National Electrification Administration and consultant to the armed forces and the police.

"This is part of the NPA's determination to make accountable to revolutionary justice those guilty of the most serious crimes against the revolution and the people, whether they be present or former leaders of the party and the NPA, or are wealthy or powerful highly-placed reactionaries," Rosal said.

His statements also run counter to earlier pronouncements by Sison denying his group's involvement in the killing.

A statement from the presidential palace said that in admitting to the assassination of Kintanar, "the NPA really tags itself as a terrorist and criminal organisation of the worst kind. This clearly justifies the government's policy of counter force against the CPP-NPA which has lost all legitimacy in its struggle".

On Saturday, President Gloria Arroyo ordered no let up in the campaign against criminals and terrorist insurgents who will be given no quarter in this fight.