Duterte to order mass arrest of communists

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Duterte to order mass  arrest of communists

This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People's Army resting among bushes in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila. Fuelled by one of the world's starkest rich-poor divides, a Maoist rebellion that began months before the first human landed on the moon plods on even though the country now boasts one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Noel Celis/AFP, File

MANILA, Philippines — His officials said the terrorist classification of any group requires court approval, but President Duterte is already preparing for a roundup of communist peace consultants.

Yesterday, Duterte told newly promoted military officials to rearrest the communist rebels who were allowed to post bail so they could participate as consultants in the aborted peace talks.

“For those who are out temporarily, we will just zero in because any day now, I will order their mass arrest. I am forced to do this because this is what you want,” Duterte told military officials during a ceremony at Malacañang.

He said the communist peace consultants could now be considered fugitives.

The government, through a Supreme Court resolution, allowed the release of the rebel leaders to participate as consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in the peace talks in Norway.

One of the conditions was that once their participation ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, the bail bonds shall be “deemed automatically canceled.”

Duterte cancelled the peace talks and publicly branded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as a terrorist group.

The NDF is representing the CPP-NPA in the peace talks with the government.

Because of his call then to strike peace with the communists, Duterte said security forces have expressed their sentiments to him over releasing the rebels.

After the talks failed, Duterte said there is no turning back for the freed rebels even if they wanted to continue to negotiate peace with the government.

Among the released rebel leaders are spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, the top NPA leaders,

“I released about 32, including the Tiamzon spouses. They are the ideologues of the Communist Party. They are also old already and I can understand why they are insisting on the resumption of the talks. One day, I will just have you rearrested,” he said.

Duterte warned militant groups and the NPA not to challenge his order or face the consequences.

“You try, and I will show that I am also sincere when I say that I will arrest you and confiscate all those things that are not allowed by law, it is not mine. It has been there for so many presidents to act. Now, on my term, I will do it,” Duterte said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s order includes the groups and personalities supporting the NPA.

He said they are criminally liable for conspiracy to commit rebellion.

Roque said a person or a group could be charged for inciting to rebellion or sedition under the Human Security Act and other penal laws.

While the President declared the CPP-NPA as a terror group, Roque explained the charges against the group or person still needs to be processed by the courts under the Human Security Act.

Roque added that the President is empowered under the law to classify the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. Malacañang is also abiding by the provisions of the Human Security Act to ensure that Duterte’s proclamation is supported by law, he said.

Moving in

The Department of Justice (DOJ), for its part, is moving to rearrest the rebel consultants.

Government prosecutors had filed a motion before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 on Nov. 24 seeking cancellation of bail grant on the 20 peace consultants led by the Tiamzon couple.

“In view of the cancellation of the peace talks, there is no more legal ground for the continuous provisional liberty of the accused. Thus, the immediate recommitment and cancellation of bail of all the accused should logically follow,” the prosecutors said.

Apart from cancellation of bail, the DOJ will also seek issuance of a court order to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he would immediately issue a department order creating a team from the National Prosecution Service to file a formal court petition.  

“It has excellent chances (of being approved) because of the numerous supporting evidence we have (showing) that they are committing terroristic activities despite numerous initiatives of President Duterte to reach out to them,” Aguirre said.

The Human Security Act requires the DOJ to first seek clearance from the court before an organization, association or group of persons can be declared as terrorist and outlawed group.  

Global implications

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano noted the global implication of Duterte’s tagging the CPP-NPA as a terror group.

Cayetano said he would inform the diplomatic corps of the proclamation and its relation to the international community.

He said the move would allow other countries to cooperate in restricting or blocking the flow of funds to the CPP-NPA.

Cayetano said the President is justified in declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization, citing the rebel attacks against government forces during the peace talks.

He said it is a “logical next step for the President to declare them as a terrorist group because they use acts of terrorism.” 

Cayetano said there are laws that define certain crimes and certain actions that will qualify as terrorist acts.

“There’s nothing in the law that would stop us from naming them as a terrorist group considering the acts that they’re doing,” Cayetano said.

“As I said, outlawing the group has a legal process and the court will declare that but labeling the group is within the powers of the President,” he said. – Edu Punay, Pia Lee-Brago, Jaime Laude

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