Philippines seeks 'terrorist' tag vs UN special rapporteur, 600 suspected Reds

Manuel Mogato, Reuters

Posted at Mar 08 2018 12:49 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2018 01:01 PM

Philippines seeks 'terrorist' tag vs UN special rapporteur, 600 suspected Reds 1
Vicky Tauli-Corpuz. Photo by Johannes Rohr

MANILA - A U.N. special rapporteur, a former Philippine lawmaker and four former Catholic priests are among more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas the Philippines wants declared "terrorists", according to a government petition filed in court.

The justice ministry last month announced it wanted a Manila court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), "terrorist" organizations, but made no mention of individuals it would also target.

The petition, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, suggests President Rodrigo Duterte is following through on his threats to destroy a movement that he now regards as duplicitous.

Within weeks of taking office in July 2016, he freed some communist leaders and put leftists in his cabinet, to show his commitment to finding a permanent solution to a five-decade conflict.

But he abandoned the process in November after what he said were repeated attacks by the NPA while talks were going on.

The petition said the rebels were "using acts of terror" to sow fear and panic to overthrow the government.

Duterte has been venting his fury at the Maoists almost on a daily basis and considers them as much of a security threat as a plethora of domestic Islamist militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

By declaring the groups and individuals terrorists, the government would be able to monitor them closer, track finances and restrict their access to resources, among other things.

The petition included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who was listed as a senior member of the Maoist rebel group.

Tauli-Corpuz declined to comment on the petition until she had seen it.

Four former Catholic priests were also named in the case, including Frank Fernandez, whom the government said was an NPA leader in the central Philippines. There was no immediate comment from Fernandez.

The petition included 18 top leaders of the communist party as central committee members, including founder Jose Maria Sison and peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, both based in The Netherlands for three decades.

Sison was a mentor of Duterte when he was at university. They are now bitter rivals, with seemingly no limit on the ferocity of their rebukes of each other.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the Maoist rebellion. Negotiations have been on and off since being brokered by Norway in 1986.

Former congressman Satur Ocampo, who has a pending criminal case for his involvement in the murder of suspected military spies in the communist movements in the 1980s, was also on the list.

Ocampo told Reuters he would challenge any "terrorist" label.