MANILA — Lawyers on Friday welcomed a Manila court ruling that dismissed the Philippine government's petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
Indigenous peoples' lawyer Joe Molintas was among over 600 names originally listed by the Department of Justice as alleged members of the CPP-NPA. He has since cleared his name from the list.
"I welcome the ruling of the Regional Trial Court as I also welcome my name being included in the beginning because I've been subjected to many discrimination in the past and that was the best time for me to be able to clear my name," he told ANC's "Headstart".
Molintas said he only fought for the rights of the indigenous peoples. This includes crafting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was passed in 2007.
"Because of our long work with the United Nations and with the Cordillera People's Alliance, our names are always included as part of the CPP-NPA, which is far from the truth," he said.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance is an independent federation of progressive peoples organizations, most of them grassroots-based organizations among indigenous communities in the Cordillera Region.
Molintas stressed there was "no evidence" that would link him to the CPP-NPA.
"Ang naging basehan lang nila ay listahan ng military na kami ay suspect. From being a suspect, now we are a terrorist. 'Yun ang naging masama po na nangyari sa amin," he said.
(Their only basis was a military list that included us as suspects. From being a suspect, now we are a terrorist. That is the bad thing that happened to us.)
For his part, Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Colmenares also lauded the court’s decision to junk the DOJ’s proscription case against the CPP-NPA.
“It’s a surprising, pleasant surprise for many human rights lawyers kasi a lot of human rights lawyers have been pushing for the peace process,” he told ANC’s “Rundown.”
“And as long as you continue to call your opponent or enemy as terrorist then the peace process will have difficulties in prospering.”
The former lawmaker said he hopes the ruling will help stop the government from red-tagging dissenters.
“It only shows, and the judged noticed it, na parang they’re just you know, putting in names and putting in names na, ‘Ay CPP-NPA, CPP-NPA’ that’s why the judge devoted a large portion, in fact later on in her decision on the dangers of red-tagging,” he noted.
“Kasi alam mo, kaya lumalala at kaya natatalo sila, nag-o-overeach sila eh. Pwede naman itukoy mo yung isang tingin mong CPP-NPA, o e di kasuhan mo sa korte. Hindi yung artista ay CPP-NPA, yung pari CPP-NPA, yung Ateneo, yung La Salle, lahat sila, Bayan Muna, lahat ng aktibista’t dissenter...CPP-NPA.”
(It got worse for them because they were overreaching. If you identify one person as a member of the CPP-NPA, then you can file a case against him. Don't tag actresses, priests, prominent universities Ateneo and La Salle, Bayan Muna, and all activists and dissenters--as members of the CPP-NPA.)
The Philippine government has lost a court bid to declare the CPP-NPA as terror organizations.
In a 135-page resolution, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar said that the group was not organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.
"'Armed struggle' is only a 'means' to achieve the CPP's purpose; it is not the 'purpose' of the creation of the CPP,” she said, after examining the constitution and key documents of the CPP-NPA.
The Philippine government filed the proscription case against the 2 rebel groups in 2018, under the provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007, which was eventually repealed by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
A proscription case seeks a court ruling declaring as terrorists an organization, association, or group of persons supposedly organized to engage in terrorism, or which actually uses acts to terrorize or “to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace” to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.