MANILA (UPDATE2) - The real target of the Philippines' Anti-Terrorism Act is the Filipino people, National Democratic Front of the Philippines' peace consultant Rey Casambre said Saturday.
Casambre said his terrorist designation by the Anti-Terrorism Council was "another nefarious device concocted by those who reckon they can and must go around or against the Constitution and the rules of law, fair play and common decency to silence those who speak and clamor for change."
"This is really not just about us peace consultants, negotiators and advocates. The real targets of EO 70 and the ATA are the vision and quest for fundamental reforms that could and would bring just and lasting peace and prosperity. The foremost and ultimate victims are the Filipino people themselves," he said in a statement.
"Rather than rally and mobilize the entire nation and government, the horrendous, senseless and dreadful loss in lives and liberties coupled with the insulting underestimation of the public's intelligence daily alienate the people. These further enlighten and motivate them to persist in struggle. I remain confident the people's will, truth and justice shall eventually prevail."
Aside from Casambre, self-exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison and his wife were also among the 29 persons that the ATC designated as "terrorists."
Casambre, who is turning 70 next month, remains detained since his apprehension in December 2018, his lawyer said. He is facing two sets of charges and is being held at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
He said only government officials believe he was a terrorist, citing incidents in 2006, where he was charged with "continuing rebellion" and his inclusion in a Justice department petition in early 2018 to proscribe the Communist Party as a terrorist organization.
"In both instances not an iota of proof or evidence was presented by my accusers to support their claims and charges against me," he said.
In September 2018, Casambre said he was also accused by then-Armed Forces chief of staff Carlito Galvez and then deputy for operations General Antonio Parlade for orchestrating "Oplan Red October."
"This is indeed military intelligence at its best! Why would I join an ambush 1500 kms from Manila a week before a crucial mammoth destabilizing rally I was supposedly coordinating? Did the state investigators miss the photos posted by the OPAPP on their FB page showing me with the HOR Peace Committee along with the OPAPP Secretary and GRP Peace Panel on September 12?" he said.
"Nobody but nobody, my accusers included, believes I am a terrorist."
Several persons designated were public consultants in the peace negotiations between government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, said multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
The Duterte administration canceled peace talks with the communist movement citing rebel attacks on state troops as negotiations were ongoing.
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.”
- with report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News