Manila court clears Satur Ocampo, 3 others in DOJ terror tag plea

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2018 06:23 PM

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday said it remains confident of its proscription case to have the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) declared as terrorist organizations, despite a Manila court’s ruling that cleared several individuals with alleged ties to the rebel group. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the case, after all, is against the CPP-NPA as entities, not against any of its individual members. 

“The fact of the matter is that these individuals are not really the party respondents. It’s the CPP and the NPA that are sought to be declared as terrorist organizations. It is these entities, not the named individuals, who are the party-respondents in the petition to declare them as terrorist organizations,” Guevarra said in a text message. 

Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon said, “The declaration by the court of some personalities as non-parties will not have any bearing on the outcome of the [case].”

In a 24-page resolution, Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19 Presiding Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar cancelled and recalled summonses issued to former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo and National Democratic Front consultant Rafael Baylosis for being “non-parties to the [DOJ] petition.”

The RTC also declared United Nations special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Jose Melencio Molintas as “non-parties.”

The DOJ filed the proscription petition in February in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order. 

In its petition, the DOJ said the CPP-NPA were organized for the purpose of “engaging in terrorism,” and cited 12 “terror activities” and “atrocities” it perpetrated in Negros Occidental and Oriental, Surigao, Misamis, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City, and Davao from June 30, 2016 up to February this year. 

The petition gave a historical narrative of the two organizations, including its “purging” phase in the 1980’s against suspected government spies and “undesirables.” 

Malacañang’s order to formally declare the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations came in the wake of the collapse of its peace talks with the Reds, as government slammed the groups for its attacks despite the ongoing talks. 

Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 on November 23, 2017, declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front-CPP-NPA.

“[I]n spite of the best efforts exerted by this administration, the NDF-CPP-NPA failed to show its sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged in acts of violence and hostilities endangering the lives and properties of innocent people," it read.

On December 5, 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations under RA No. 10168, also known as The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppresion Act of 2012. 

Guevarra and Fadullon said the list of individuals, including Ocampo, Baylosis, Corpuz, and Molintas, with alleged links to the CPP-NPA was merely for the purpose of service of summons to the two organizations.

“The respondents are the CPP and the NPA, whom the government wants to be declared as terrorist organizations. But where are their principal places of ‘business?’ Who are their responsible officers on whom summons may be served?" Guevarra said.

"So the DOJ mentioned the names of certain persons identified by our intelligence agencies as having links with the CPP and the NPA, in the hope that these people will answer the petition on behalf of the respondent organizations."

Fadullon said the DOJ "will just have to resort to causing the service of summons by publication.”

This was also in the RTC resolution, when the court said it was directing the DOJ “to cause service of summons to respondent organizations CPP and NPA by publication in a newspaper of general circulation.”

Should the court grant the DOJ’s petition, the department said its prosecution of cases against CPP-NPA members will be facilitated by the proscription, coupled with other supporting evidence to warrant their conviction in court.