Detained peace consultant asks SC: What could be basis for designation as terrorist?

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2021 09:49 PM

MANILA — A “perplexed” peace consultant of the National Democratic Front has manifested to the Supreme Court his designation as a “terrorist” by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) despite being detained since December 2018.

“Petitioner... is at a loss as to what information can be the basis for his designation as a terrorist by the ATC, when he has been physically sidelined from his work and associations throughout his detention,” Rey Casambre said in a manifestation filed through his lawyers before the high court on Wednesday.

Casambre and his wife were arrested by the police and the military in Cavite on December 7, 2018 over an alleged murder and attempted murder case in Davao Oriental. 

They also supposedly carried guns, bullets, and a grenade when they were apprehended.

Their arrest came a year after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.

Casambre is among the petitioners questioning the validity of the Anti-Terrorism Act. 

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The oral arguments ended Monday after 9 sessions and 10 months since the law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

A former Supreme Court associate justice who was tapped by the high court for his expertise has recommended the outright dismissal of all 37 petitions due to the supposed absence of a personal stake on the part of petitioners.

Retired SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said “none of the petitioners in these cases has claimed direct, personal, or constitutional injury, or has alleged actual prosecution under the ATA as to be entitled to relief.”

A recurring theme during the oral arguments were some magistrates asking for an “actual case” where a person has sustained “direct injury” as a result of the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act. 

In his motion, Casambre sought to point out the real threat on him caused by the anti-terror measure.

“Petitioner Casambre joined the other petitioners in filing the instant petition because he faces credible threat of prosecution under Republic Act No. 11479. As shown by his designation by the ATC, it is clearly not only an imagined threat to his life and property, but a real and very imminent one,” he said.

He said no evidence were presented as basis for his designation.

“Significantly, the ATC resolution was not supported by any evidence of Casambre’s alleged violations of Sections 6 to 10 of the ATA and no specific terroristic acts were cited,” his manifestation said.

The ATC had 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.”

Both National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., the vice chair of the ATC and Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay, one of the spokespersons of the ATC, insisted the ATC had bases for the designation.

Among those designated was Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who shrugged off the designation.

But Casambre expressed concerns over the effect of the designation on his safety and that of his family.

“With Casambre’s designation as a terrorist, which was published and reported on national news, his reputation has already been damaged. Worse, without being informed o the bases for his designation and an opportunity to dispute the same, he has already been adjudged a terrorist and is now subject to all consequences of such designation,” the manifestation read.

“His family also suffers from fear for their security as a result of the designation,” it added.

The peace consultant's lawyers asked the high court to consider their client’s plight in resolving the petitions as well as their prior plea for SC to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of the controversial law.