A Manila court has trimmed down to 2 the number of individuals with “unassailable links” to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the government’s "terrorist list".
In an 8-page resolution dated February 1, Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19, identified only CPP chairman Jose Maria Sison and Antonio Cabanatan, Secretary of the Mindanao Commission, as having “undisputed links” to the CPP-NPA.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) originally listed 649 names as members of the CPP-NPA, a move which caused an uproar because it was perceived to be a case of terror-tagging.
Four of those originally included in the list – National Democratic Front consultant Rafael Baylosis, United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo and Jose Melencio Molintas – cleared their names from the list.
The DOJ itself, however, in its amended petition filed in January this year, deleted an entire paragraph from its earlier petition which contained more than 600 names and left only 8 names alleged to be officers of the CPP-NPA.
Aside from Sison and Cabanatan, these included Jorge Madlos, Jaime Padilla, Francisco Fernandez, Cleofe Lagapon, Leonido Nabong and Myrna Sularte.
But the court, in its resolution, found the evidence submitted by the DOJ to tag the 6 others wanting.
“[A]n inspection of the Amended Petition and its attachments reveals that petitioner was able to present proof of links to the underground groups of only two of the foregoing personalities – particularly Jose Maria Sison y Canlas and Antonio Cabanatan,” the court said.
The court however clarified that the enumeration of individuals with unassailable links to the CPP-NPA was not to make them respondents to the petition but only for the purpose of serving summons to the CPP-NPA so that the court can gain jurisdiction over them and the petition.
Under the Rules of Court, summons for entities without a legal personality such as the CPP-NPA may be served on any of its members.
In this case, the court said summons for CPP-NPA may be served through Sison and Cabanatan.
But since Sison is outside the country and Cabanatan had no known address, the court said it will just serve summons by publishing it in a newspaper of general circulation.
MOOT AND ACADEMIC
In the same resolution, the court dismissed the motions filed by 9 individuals who disavowed any connection to the CPP-NPA.
These included advocates of indigenous people’s groups, human rights and rights of political prisoners.
The court considered their motions “moot and academic” because the DOJ itself had removed their names from the amended petition.
The court also took the opportunity to declare the more than 600 individuals who were originally identified as CPP-NPA members without basis as non-parties to the petition.
The DOJ filed the petition under the Human Security Act of 2007 during the term of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization.
But his successor, current Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had said last year that the DOJ itself “did not have any personal verification of any connection of these individuals with the CPP or the NPA.”
Critics called the petition virtually a “hit-list” which endangered the life and security of those included in the list.