MANILA — Various groups on Friday gathered in front of the Department of Justice in Manila to call for the delisting of former National Democratic Front (NDF) chief peace negotiator Luis “Louie” Jalandoni.
Jalandoni, 87, was among 6 alleged communist leaders and 6 alleged Abu Sayyaf members designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) in May.
He was identified as a supposed member of the Communist Party of the Philippines Central Committee and the National Democratic Front as well as the founder of the Christians for National Liberation, all of which were earlier designated by the ATC as terrorist groups.
The designation is a controversial process provided under the Anti-Terrorism Act that allows the ATC to unilaterally tag individuals and groups as terrorists even before they could present evidence to refute the claim.
The delisting was only included in the implementing rules and regulations of the law.
It was upheld by the Supreme Court last year.
Former lawmaker Liza Masa, now the general secretary of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), led progressive groups in a dialogue with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.
The Justice Secretary sits as a member of the ATC.
The purpose of the dialogue was to hand over a letter from the International Committee Defend Louie Jalandoni for President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., coursed through Remulla, where they call for the revocation of the Jalandoni’s designation.
“Louie is a man of peace! He is not a terrorist,” the letter said, denouncing the ATC’s designation of Jalandoni as a terrorist for being “arbitrary” and done without due process, prior notice or any semblance of transparency.
“This denouncement comes as we gather mounting support from the international community. The International Committee Defend launched a petition signing campaign which gathered over 1,500 signatories from the Philippines and across the world in defense of Louie Jalandoni and the Filipino people, rightfully calling for the revocation of ATC’s baseless and malicious claims,” it added.
A former Catholic priest who later on served for almost 15 years as chair of the NDFP negotiating panel, Jalandoni has worked tirelessly for peace, according to Masa.
Although he stepped down as chief negotiator in 2016, he stayed on as a senior adviser.
“Matagal na pong inalay niya ang kanyang buhay para sa usaping pangkapayapaan at hindi magkakaroon ng tunay na kapayapaan sa bansa hangga’t ang mga nagsusulong nito ay tinataguriang terorista,” Masa told the media ahead of the dialogue Friday afternoon.
She distinguished rebels from terrorists, sayings terrorists do not advocate for a cause while the NDF has sought to uplift the lives of ordinary Filipinos.
“Hindi sila terrorist. Sila po ay matagal nang nakikipaglaban para magkaroon ng matagalan at sustinable na kapayapaan dito sa ating bayan,” she said.
“Iwaksi na natin ang pag-iisip na porke humawak ng armas ay sasabihin nating terrorist. Ang tradisyon po ng paglaban nang armado nagsimula pa sa panahon ni Andres Bonifacio. At ito ay may katuturan at merong dahilan,” she added.
Terror-tagging, she said, is a big obstacle to peace talks.
She urged the government to instead focus on addressing the root causes of armed struggle by first coming to the negotiating table.
After having good relations with the Left at the start of his term, former President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace talks with communist rebel groups and instead created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a group accused of red-tagging activists and progressive group members.
President Marcos, Jr. did not mention the communist insurgency in his first State of the Nation Address in July but his peace adviser said the Philippine government is engaged in local peace talks and is waiting for the right time for a final settlement with the Reds.
Masa declined to speak on the record after the dialogue if Remulla made any commitments with respect to their plea.
Among the groups who called for Jalandoni’s delisting are the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Asia Pacific Research Network, and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty.