MANILA - Membership in communist organizations is no longer illegal, a former spokesperson of the Supreme Court reminded the military on Tuesday, calling on the latter to refrain from Red-tagging government critics.
Military chief General Carlito Galvez earlier claimed that former lawmaker Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, who were both arrested last week for alleged kidnapping, were "active" members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Even if this were true, there is no law prohibiting membership in the CPP, human rights lawyer and former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said in a chance interview.
The Anti-Subversion Act, which outlaws CPP membership, was repealed under the presidency of Fidel Ramos, he noted.
"Yung subversion is no longer an offense, ni-repeal po yun... Because hindi na s'ya krimen, hindi na s'ya maAaring magbigay ng sapat na batayan, para kung anuman yung legal na aksyon na gagawin,” said Te, who is now teaching law at the University of the Philippines.
(Subversion is no longer an offense, it was repealed. Because it is no longer a crime, it cannot be used as basis for any legal action.)
“Siguro kailangan nilang balikan 'yung batas," he added.
(Perhaps they need to review the law.)
Te also called on the military to explain to the public the basis for its recommendation to extend martial law in the south for a third time.
President Rodrigo Duterte initially declared martial law in Mindanao when the siege of Marawi City erupted in May 2017. It was valid for 60 days but Congress granted its extension until the end of 2017.
Congress in late 2017 voted to extend martial law throughout 2018 to quell alleged terrorist threats. This second extension is scheduled to end on December 31.