MANILA (UPDATE) - The Anti-Terrorism Council has begun the controversial process of designating who may be considered by authorities as “terrorists” and “terrorist groups” under the new Anti-Terror law, which may have implications on freezing of assets.
This follows five months since the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was signed into law, despite heavy opposition from various groups over concerns it could lead to human rights violations.
In 2 separate resolutions approved on December 9, the ATC designated the following as “terrorist organizations, associations, and/or groups:”
- Communist Party of the Philippines
- New People’s Army / Bagong Hukbong Bayan
- Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in South-East Asia
- Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik
- Dawlatul Islamiyyah Waliyatul Mashriq
- IS East Asia Division
- Maute Group
- Islamic State East Asia
- Maute ISIS
- Grupong ISIS
- Grupo ISIS
- Khilafah Islamiyah
- Ansharul Khilafah
- Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters-Bungos
- Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters-Abubakar
- Jama’atu al-Muhajirin wal Ansar fil Filibin
- Daulah Islamiyah
- other Daesh-affiliated groups in the Philippines
The copies of the ATC resolutions uploaded on the ATC website indicated the originals were signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the ATC chairperson, and approved by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., who serves as vice chair of the ATC.
BASES FOR THE DESIGNATION
ATC Resolution No. 12 for the CPP-NPA cited as basis for the designation the proscription case which the Department of Justice (DOJ), under then Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, filed before a Manila court in February 2018, listing 649 individuals as members.
That petition cited 12 incidents allegedly constituting acts of murder, kidnapping and arson to prove that the CPP-NPA supposedly continues to commit acts of terror to achieve its alleged ultimate goal of overthrowing the government.
Peace negotiations between government and communist rebels had collapsed earlier under the Duterte administration.
“Filing of the said petition by the NPS (National Prosecution Service), DOJ clearly establishes the existence of probable cause that the CPP/NPA committed, or attempted to commit, or conspired in the commission of the acts defined and penalized by the ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act),” ATC Resolution 12 said.
But the DOJ, in January 2019, amended the petition leaving only 8 names, which the Manila court further trimmed down to 2, who supposedly have “unassailable links” to the CPP-NPA. That ruling was solely for the purpose of serving the summons so the court could gain jurisdiction over the CPP-NPA.
Aguirre’s successor, current Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, 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.”
ATC Resolution No. 12 also invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Presidential Proclamation No. 374 declaring the CPP-NPA as terrorists for the purpose of implementing Republic Act 10168 or “The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012,” which punishes financing of terrorist activities and allows the Philippine government to freeze the assets of groups identified as terrorists.
The same resolution mentioned the United States of America’s designation of the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization in August 2002 as well as the designations by the European Union (2002), Australia (2002), United Kingdom (2002) and New Zealand (2010).
‘PRECURSOR FOR HEIGHTENED FASCIST SUPPRESSION’
In a statement, the CPP rejected the designation and described it as a “precursor for heightened fascist suppression.”
“The regime is setting the stage for all-out suppression of democratic rights using "anti-terrorism" as pretext,” said the party's information officer Marco Valbuena.
Valbuena also pointed out falsehoods in the ATC’s designation of the CPP-NPA. He said they are not on the list of proscribed terrorist organizations of the United Kingdom and Australia.
“Based on the Anti-Terror Law, the ATC can adopt the terrorist proscription by foreign countries (including that of the United States) if there is a request for designation coming from these jurisdictions. The ATC does not cite any such request made by the US, New Zealand or the European Union,” Valbuena said.
He added that both the CPP and the NPA are revolutionary organizations fighting for the national and democratic interests of the Filipino people.
“The CPP and NPA stand against terrorism which involves inflicting violence on unarmed civilians in violation of international humanitarian law,” he said.
He added that the United Nations Secretary General recently acknowledged the CPP and NPA's ceasefire declaration issued in response to the UNSG's call for a global ceasefire in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also cited that for many years, the Royal Norwegian Government has served as Third Party Facilitator of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“As a belligerent in the civil war, the NPA formally recognizes and applies the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of its military operations. The NPA's Three Rules of Discipline and Eights Points of Attention, which serve as the moral code of its Red fighters, both uphold respect and guarantee for the rights and welfare of the people,” he said.
Resolution for ISIS-linked groups
Meanwhile, ATC Resolution No. 13 for ISIS, Maute and other groups relied on the United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, as well as the designations by Australia, United States and New Zealand while raising the matter of the Marawi siege.
The ISIS-linked Maute group was behind the five-month siege, which left much of the city in shambles.
“[T]he Marawi siege in 2017 has served as a paradigm for like-minded groups and personalities in Southeast Asia and other parts of the globe to join the militants in southern Philippines in their ambition to establish a caliphate in Mindanao, as what the Da’esh leadership has been advocating,” it said.
THE POWER TO DESIGNATE AND IMPLICATIONS
Under Section 25 of the ATA, the ATC may designate terrorist groups in 3 ways:
- by automatically adopting the United Nations Security Council Consolidated List of designated individuals, groups of persons, organizations or associations
- by adopting requests for designations by other jurisdictions
- by ATC’s own designation
Designation, done by an all-Executive ATC, is different from the proscription process which goes through the Court of Appeals.
A key consequence of designation is that it allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets of designated terrorist groups or individuals.
The ATC’s own media release highlights the freezing of assets under another law — RA 10168.
“In effect, the designation places the assets of the CPP/NPA subject to the authority of the Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC to investigate or freeze the same pursuant to Section 11 of RA 10168. Section 8 of RA 10168, provides that any person who knowingly deals with any property or funds of designated persons or makes available any property or funds or financial services or other related services to such designated persons faces criminal and civil liability,” it said, claiming the ATA and RA 10168 “complement” each other.
Authorities used RA 10168 as legal basis to freeze the assets of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a group of nuns accused of having ties with the CPP-NPA.
Critics of the ATA have denounced the ATC’s power to designate terrorists as a violation of the right to due process, among others, since it precludes participation of suspected terrorists, leaving them no chance to oppose nor present evidence before their designation.
Former lawmaker and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers chair Neri Colmenares previously called the ATC’s plan to publicize the names of groups tagged as terrorists as the “mother of all red-tagging.”
Activists have also expressed concern that the spate of red-tagging of rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and other groups committed by government officials themselves, could eventually lead to their being tagged as “terrorists” under the ATA.
Thirty-seven petitions are pending before the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the ATA. SC will hold oral arguments on January 19, 2021.