The decision of a Manila court dismissing the proscription case to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorist organizations has no bearing on the campaign against local communists who seek to overthrow the government through armed violence.
“It doesn’t hinder government efforts to fight his menace of the society,” said Senator Ronald de la Rosa, adding that he respects the decision of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 presiding Judge Marlo A. Magdoza-Malagar, dismissing a petition filed by the Department of Justice on 21 February 2018.
In a 135-page decision dated 21 September, Malgar said the CPP-NPA was not organized to engage in terrorism.
“Guerrilla warfare is not synonymous with terrorism,” the ruling read.
Meanwhile Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said the Department of Justice will appeal the ruling.
“We’ll file a motion for reconsideration. Then if we have to, we’ll go to the Court of Appeals. And you know it’s something that the government has to take care of when people are attacking the state,” Remulla said.
He said he will immediately discuss with DoJ officials and government prosecutors the arguments they would raise in their appeal.
Malgar relied her ruling on the provisions of RA 9372 (Human Security Act of 2007) whose proscription process, she noted, “is more favorable to the respondent organizations.”
The court said none of the incidents in the government report caused “widespread and extraordinary fear and panic” among Filipinos but only “pocket and sporadic occurrences” in limited and scattered areas in the country.
The purging incidents, it added, were carried out in secrecy, which precluded the likelihood of “widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace to be considered acts of terrorism.”
It also made clear that incidents such as the collection of revolutionary taxes, and the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing, which took place before the Human Security Act was passed into law in 2007 could not be used against the CPP-NPA in the proscription case.
Malagar said the acts attributed to the CPP-NPA should be considered “political crimes” and treated with leniency.
“An NPA member engages in violence and employs force, not for violence’s sake but in pursuit of the higher ideals contained in the Constitution of the CPP,” the ruling read.
The court also expressed doubt whether the specific acts of terrorism presented were carried out by the NPA.
“It is notable that the eyewitnesses’ identification of the perpetrators in the foregoing incidents is primarily based on the clothing the latter was wearing… This identification leaves much to be desired.
Certainly, it takes more than a certain manner or mode of dressing to establish that one is a member of the CPP-NPA,” the ruling read.
It added: “In the absence of any evidence that the official uniform of the members of the CPP-NPA consists of an all-black outfit, this Court cannot give credence to the witnesses’ identification.”
Former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed a proclamation in December 2017 declaring the CPP-NPA under Republic Act 10168, otherwise known as “The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.”
On 9 August 2002, the United States of America designated the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization.
Other countries like European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, also listed the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization
Information from the Australian Embassy in Manila on Thursday showed that the Australian government has designated anew the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group for the next three years.
NTF ELCAC’s reaction
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict said it is saddened by the court ruling.
NTF ELCAC executive director-designate, Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, told reporters that the anti-insurgency task force will issue a strong statement about the issue and it will not stop establishing a “strong position” to make people aware of the CPP-NPA’s deception strategies and recruitment tactics.
“Of course, we are saddened because there is such a decision being circulated or made by a court, a decision that runs counter to the decision of the former president, and the international community making a strong stand against CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist group, organization,” Salamat said.
He said the Manila RTC decision may “perhaps affect” the government’s campaign against communist insurgency but will not cause any setback to its fight against terrorism.
“Over the past 50 years we have the testaments of terrorism, violence, and murder associated with regards to the CPP-NPA-NDF,” he said.
The task force is quite surprised by this decision, he said.
Salamat noted that the NTF ELCAC is looking at appealing the court decision.
“We can appeal as far as we can, we will appeal. We will ask the concerned agencies of the government who also contact the legal cluster, cooperation of the task force to make a statement,” he said.
Salamat cited the communist groups have already been weakened by the NTF ELCAC’s anti-insurgency efforts and whole-of-nation approach to addressing terrorism in the country.
The DoJ in 2018, filed the proscription case to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group citing as legal basis Section 17 of Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007.
Under the Human Security Act, the government may, among other things, seize “deposits and their outstanding balances, placements, trust accounts, assets, and records in any bank or financial institution, money, businesses, transportation and communication equipment, supplies and other implements, and property” belonging to an organization declared as a terrorist organization and its members.
ALVIN MURCIA AND LADE KABAGANI
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