MANILA (UPDATE) — The Anti-Terrorism Council has designated 19 alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorists,” based on a resolution published in newspapers Thursday.
Ten other members of different “local terrorist groups” who are allegedly members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group were also listed in a separate resolution.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Wednesday said the ATC has identified individuals it is designating as “terrorists.”
Without citing evidence or bases for the designation, the ATC said it found probable cause based on “verified and validated information” that the 19 alleged CPP-NPA leaders were involved in “planning, preparing, facilitating, conspiring, and inciting the commission of terrorism and recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization or a group organized for the purpose of terrorism.”
These acts are covered by sections 6 to 10 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The ATC resolution dated April 21 described the 19 individuals as “central committee members” of the CPP-NPA, the highest decision- and policy-making body of the CPP, which also supposedly leads and commands the NPA, “its main weapon in attaining the Party’s goal of overthrowing the duly-elected government by seizing and consolidating political power through violent means.”
Some of these names were included in the proscription case filed by the Department of Justice in 2018 before a Manila court against the CPP-NPA under the Human Security Act.
The list of 461 names and 188 aliases submitted was only for the purpose of sending summons so that the court could gain jurisdiction over the case.
The DOJ, however, amended its petition in January 2019, leaving only 8 names alleged to be officers of the CPP-NPA.
The Manila court later found only 2 names as having “undisputed links” to the CPP-NPA.
The petition was filed 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 in 2018 that the DOJ itself “did not have any personal verification of any connection of these individuals with the CPP or the NPA.”
The proscription case against the CPP-NPA is still pending.
In a separate resolution dated February 24, the ATC designated 10 alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group who now belong to different groups previously designated by the ATC, accusing them of “conspiring, planning, and preparing for the commission of terrorism” covered ny sections 6, 7 and 10 of the ATA.
The Abu Sayyaf Group, the resolution said, had previously been designated by the United Nations Security Council as a terrorist group and proscribed in September 2015 under the old Human Security Act, which the ATA replaced.
PROSCRIPTION VS DESIGNATION
Proscription is the process of seeking a court declaration that a certain group is “outlawed” for being a terrorist group after being given the opportunity to be heard.
Under the Human Security Act, a proscription case could be filed before a regional trial court but under the Anti-Terrorism Act, it should be filed with the Court of Appeals.
In contrast, it is the Anti-Terrorism Council under the ATA which designates persons or groups as terrorists.
The Office of the Solicitor General on Wednesday said designation will only lead to freezing of assets, not arrests.
“Designation would result to [sic] the freezing of the assets of the designee and it is not dependent on the pendency of any criminal proceeding against the proposed designee, your honor. There is no criminal offense and this would not pave the way to the arrest of the individual who is designated, your honor,” said Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Dela Cruz-Galandines.
Under the ATA, those subject of a freeze order have 20 days to file a petition with the Court of Appeals to question the basis for the freeze order, while the ATA’s Implementing Rules and Regulations gives designated individuals and groups 15 days to ask for delisting from the Anti-Terrorism Council.
ABS-CBN News is not identifying the persons designated by the ATC as “terrorists” until we get their side.
DESIGNATION A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Terrorist designation without any due process is a rights violation, said multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
"The designation is arbitrary, has no clear standards, with no evidence presented and no specific terrorist acts cited. It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging, that violates the rights of those designated. Those listed will also suffer the freezing of their bank accounts, a direct injury. All of this was done without due process," it said in a statement.
The group noted that several persons designated were public consultants in the peace negotiations between government and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
"How can “terrorists” engage the government in peace talks? Doesn’t that make the designation absurd, a retaliatory act in the aftermath of the scuttled negotiations? And won’t this affect future peace talks as government is now using terrorist designation against those engaged in the peace process?" it said.
"The people must reject this sham of a process that is controlled by the same people running the NTF-ELCAC. The same can easily be done against anyone disliked by the regime."
Government earlier canceled peace talks with the communist movement citing rebel attacks on state troops as negotiations were on going.
- with reports from Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News