EU tags CPP-NPA as terror groups

- Aurea Calica () - November 1, 2002 - 12:00am
The 15-member European Union (EU) has declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA) as foreign terrorist groups, which may leave exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison with no more place to hide.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople told a press conference yesterday that the EU Council of Ministers made the declaration just two weeks after he and his delegation left for Europe to make their case before union.

Citing reports from Ambassador to Belgium and EU Clemencio Montesa, Ople said the EU Council of Ministers adopted a "common position" to have the NPA declared as foreign terrorists and Sison as a terrorist last Oct. 28. The council is based in Brussels, Belgium.

The EU published the decision in the Oct. 30 edition of the Official Journal of European Communities. It will be submitted to the United Nations in accordance with the UN Resolution 1373, which mandates that member states commit themselves to fighting global terrorism.

As this developed, Ople said he asked the Philippine National Police to tighten the security at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its regional offices for fear of retaliation from the CPP-NPA.

"In the wake of this diplomatic victory over the CPP-NPA, the DFA can be a magnet for terrorist reprisals and pro-communist demonstrations as well as vicious propaganda attacks," he said.

With the EU declaration, Ople pointed out that individuals and organizations identified with the NPA and Sison, who is living in exile in the Netherlands, will be denied visas to as well as sanctuary in any EU member country. Their funds and assets in the EU will be cut and frozen, and any other fund-raising activities will be prohibited.

"This will severely limit the ability of the CPP-NPA to pursue more terroristic acts in the Philippines," Ople said.

With the NPA and its founding chairman declared as foreign terrorists, Ople said it will only be a matter of time for Sison to be expelled from the Netherlands and no longer granted asylum in any other EU member country.

"They have no place to hide," Ople said, but noted that Sison has very good legal counsels who keep the authorities from making him leave the Netherlands.

The purpose of this EU decision is to bring pressure to bear on the communist group to return to the negotiating table and discuss a comprehensive peace settlement that could lead to the end of a decades-old armed struggle to overthrow the Philippine government.

"The communists must now seriously discuss peace. The time is past for stalling, while regrouping to strike at peaceful citizens. We want them to lay down their arms and transform themselves into a peaceful political party capable of competing in the constitutional arena, in peaceful democratic elections," Ople said.

He added that the government would "like to see the communists finally reconciling with their fellow Filipinos for a concerted effort to advance the development and welfare of the motherland."
‘Biggest bonus’
Ople noted that the return of the communist rebels to the government’s fold will lead to the "biggest bonus" in Philippine history.

However, there will be no peace talks until the NPA stops its attacks on politicians and provincial police detachments, he added.

Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said that the government "still has to reach out to members of the CPP to show we are sincere in ending this conflict."

Talks with the communists crumbled last year, when the NPA assassinated two congressmen — Rodolfo Aguinaldo of Cagayan and Marcial Punzalan of Quezon. The NPA in recent weeks has been stepping up its attacks on government targets and infrastructure.

Police said they were looking into the NPA’s possible hand in the killing this week of a town mayor in the northern Philippines, known for his tough anti-insurgency campaign.

The United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia have declared the CPP as a foreign terrorist organization.

Aside from calling on the police to enhance security at the DFA, Ople said he also alerted the 15-man Marine Security Force assigned to protect the DFA building on Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City.

"We know that this verdict of the EU will cause strong resentment on the part of the CPP-NPA and will make the DFA a target for reprisals," he said.

Ople also directed the eight regional passport offices throughout the country to take the necessary precautionary measures.

EU member countries are closely monitoring the movements of Sison and others affiliated with the communist movement.

Sison, a 63-year-old former university professor, denies allegations that he is still chairman of the CPP. Living in exile in the Dutch city of Utrecht since 1987, he has served as a "political adviser" of the National Democratic Front (NDF) –the CPP’s political wing –in on-and-off talks with the Manila government since 1992.

The Maoist-oriented NPA, established in 1969, fought dictator Ferdinand Marcos and continued the armed struggle against succeeding governments after he was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986.
‘Peace talks imperilled’
This development may have a "negative effect" on peace talks between the government and the communist movement, according to Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo.

Ocampo said in a phone interview that the Arroyo administration has apparently taken a contradictory position: while wanting to pursue talks with the communist movement, it has supported an international campaign led by the US to blacklist the CPP and the NPA as foreign terrorist organizations.

Ocampo is on a European trip to take up the cudgels for Sison. When he was contacted by mobile phone by The STAR, he was seeking an audience with members of the Swedish parliament to talk about the status of Sison as a political exile in Europe.

He said the EU declaration came as a surprise because the matter is still being debated in the Swedish parliament, where 27 legislators have signed a letter asking the Dutch government to withdraw its support for the US campaign against the CPP-NPA.

"What will happen now? Professor Sison is a major participant in the talks as a senior political consultant to the NDF," he said. "Now he, along with the NPA, has been called a terrorist by the EU."

Ocampo said it is not clear to him how the talks could proceed under the present circumstances when the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, has just been declared by the EU as a terrorist organization.

He noted that the CPP and the NDF were not included in the list of terrorist organizations released by the EU.

Ocampo said the EU did not observe due process in arriving at the decision to label Sison and the NPA as terrorists.

"(Sison) was not at all heard on this, his side was not heard," said Ocampo, adding that he expects the exiled communist leader to appeal the EU declaration.

"Does the declaration mean that he will now be ousted from Europe, that he is now not welcome anywhere in the European Union?" he asked.

Earlier, the NDF wrote the EU that it is the Philippine government that should be labeled as terrorist for committing "gross human rights violations on a wide scale."

"In stark contrast to the CPP, NPA and other revolutionary forces, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and all its armed forces like the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, deputized private armies and death squads to commit gross human rights violations on a wide scale against the people, especially the workers and peasants," said NDF peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni in a letter dated Sept. 3, 2002. "The records of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations under the auspices of state terrorism, overshadow the claims of the GRP against the CPP and NPA."

He charged that the Philippine armed forces use bombs dropped from airplanes, artillery fire, flame-throwers and strafing by rifle fire to attack communities and force them to evacuate, adding that government forces "kill upon sight the leaders and active members of legal mass organizations."

Jalandoni said government forces also torture and murder suspected revolutionaries and those they capture in battle.

"In contrast, the NPA applies a lenient policy towards its captives, sharing food with them, giving medical care to the wounded and voluntarily releasing ordinary enemy soldiers in good condition," he said.

The CPP and NPA "are highly responsible political organizations" which have been part of the national liberation movement since 1968, Jalandoni maintained.

The NDF and all the organizations within its fold have assumed the responsibility of upholding human rights and humanitarian law by depositing with the Swiss Federal Council on July 5, 1996 the NDF’s National Council Declaration of Undertaking to Apply the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol 1 of 1977, Jalandoni said.

He also cited the protracted peace negotiations between the movement and the Philippine government since 1992, which has been hosted at various times by the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

"These peace negotiations are still in progress under the facilitation of the Norwegian government but are now threatened and assailed by the US in trying to carry out a witch-hunt for ‘terrorists’ within the ranks of the NDF," he said, citing the resolutions passed by the European parliament in 1997 and 1999 supporting the peace negotiations between the two panels. With Romel Bagares, AFP

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