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CPP: Terrorist tag could lead to harassment, extortion

A part of nearly 100 members and supporters of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines display placards during a brief rally in March 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, file
MANILA, Philippines — Classifying communist rebels as terrorists will let the Duterte administration target legitimate organizations and extort money from corporations, the Communist Party of the Philippines said.
 
In a statement sent Friday morning, the CPP said it "strongly rejects" President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation 374, which would close the door to further peace negotiations and allow the government more leeway in surveillance and arrest operations against suspected terrorists.
 
"[T]he declaration not only targets the CPP and the New People's Army] but moreso persons and organizations that Duterte and his military cabal can designate at will as terrorists for 'financing and aiding' the CPP and the NPA," the party said.  
 
"This clearly targets the national democratic legal mass movement which he has repeatedly threatened with a crackdown for supposedly 'conspiring' with the NPA," he said.
 
 
Duterte has, in recent months, alleged that the communists have been working with opposition groups like the Liberal Party — members of whom are in the House majority bloc or have since defected to the administration PDP-Laban party — to oust him. 
 
"Itong Karapatan, itong [Kilusang Mayo Uno], itong Piston, they are just the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines... It's a one big conspiracy but they are at the same time—all of them—are committing right now rebellion," Duterte said in a televised speech in Camarines Sur in October.
 
George San Mateo, president of transport group PISTON, was ordered arrested earlier this week over a strike his group held in February. San Mateo, who was arrested as he was about to post bail, is now out on bail.
 
Activist groups are concerned that the killing of activist priest Marcelito Paez, as well as of King's Glory Ministry pastor Lovelito Quinones in Oriental Mindoro and of eight T'boli and Dulangan Manobo farmers in Lake Sebu, Sultan Kudarat on December 3 are part of a crackdown on activists.
 
 
"Duterte will also be able to shakedown or extort from corporations and businesses by simply associating them with the NPA," the CPP warned in its statement. The NPA routinely collects "revolutionary taxes" from firms operating in areas where the rebel group has a presence. 
 
"He has already done so by threatening mining companies which he accuses of 'aiding' the NPA by paying revolutionary taxes," the communist party said.
 
Duterte, who identifies as a socialist and was a member of the Kabataang Makabayan while in college, had a working relationship with the CPP-NPA while mayor of Davao City. His election to the presidency was seen as a victory by progressive groups, members of which were appointed to Cabinet positions.
 
Peace talks that were restarted in 2016 sputtered in February over political prisoners still in detention and over supposed counterinsurgency operations in NPA areas. The latest deterioration in the peace process between the government and the CPP-NPA happened after an NPA ambush on police officers in Bukidnon. Civilians, including an infant, were killed in the attack. 

More US aid and intervention

Aside from the supposed crackdown, the CPP also said that classifying it and the NPA and the CPP "on the basis that both groups are  listed as 'foreign terrorist organizations' by the US State Department" could mean increased military aid and equipment from the US, which has been prosecuting its "War on Terror" since 2011.
 
"By kowtowing to the US line of 'counterterrorism,' Duterte is opening wide the door for increased US military intervention across the country, as he did in Marawi and Mindanao when he declared the now defunct Maute group as 'terrorists'," the CPP said.
 
Although not legally classified as terrorists under the Human Security Act, it has been generally accepted as fact that the Islamic State-affiliated Maute group is a terrorist organization. The Maute siege of Marawi City from May to October of this year was aided by a faction of the Abu Sayyaf, which is a terrorist organization under the Human Security Act.  
 
"Duterte's shameless puppetry to his US imperialist masters is unbounded when it comes to furthering his own fascist ambitions," the party said.
 
Duterte, in a bid for an independent foreign policy, has nurtured closer ties with non-traditional allies like China and Russia and has distanced himself from the US because of so-called meddling in the Philippines' war on drugs.
 
Ties with the US have improved however under the presidency of Donald Trump. — Jonathan de Santos
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