Government seeks ‘terrorist’ tag for 600 suspected Reds

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Government seeks �terrorist� tag for 600 suspected Reds
This is according to a petition filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) before the Manila regional trial court (RTC).
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A United Nations special rapporteur, a former lawmaker and four former Catholic priests are among more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas the government wants to be declared “terrorists.”

This is according to a petition filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) before the Manila regional trial court (RTC).

The DOJ last month announced it wanted the Manila RTC to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), as “terrorist organizations,” but made no mention of individuals it would also target.

The petition included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who was listed as a senior member of the CPP-NPA.

Corpuz earlier piqued Malacañang when she and fellow rapporteur Cecilia Jimenez-Damary claimed human rights abuses were committed against indigenous peoples in Mindanao with the imposition of martial law. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque hit the two UN special rapporteurs for supposedly embarrassing the Duterte administration before the international community.

Tauli-Corpuz, for her part, declined to comment on the petition until she had seen it.

Four former Catholic priests were also named in the case, including Frank Fernandez, whom the government said was an NPA leader in the Visayas region. There was no immediate comment from Fernandez.

They were among the over 600 alleged communists leaders, most of them under aliases, listed in the petition.

The petition included 18 top leaders of the CPP central committee members, including founder Jose Maria Sison and peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, both based in the Netherlands for three decades.

The DOJ also named Sison’s wife Julieta de Lima and Jalandoni’s wife Connie Ledesma as ranking officers of the party.

Sison was a mentor of President Duterte when he was at university. They are now bitter rivals, with seemingly no limit on the ferocity of their rebukes of each other.

The petition also named as communist officers Wilma and Benito Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva, who are among the co-accused of Sison and former congressman Satur Ocampo in the multiple murder case before the Manila RTC for their alleged role in the 1980s communist purge of alleged military spies.

Ocampo, a columnist of The STAR, told Reuters he would challenge any “terrorist” label.

The petition suggests President Duterte is following through on his threats to destroy a movement that he now regards as duplicitous.

Within weeks of taking office in July 2016, Duterte freed some communist leaders and put leftists in his Cabinet to show his commitment to finding a permanent solution to a five-decade-old conflict.

Duterte, however, abandoned the process in November after what he said were repeated attacks by the NPA while talks were going on.

The DOJ petition said the communist rebels were “using acts of terror” to sow fear and panic to overthrow the government.

Duterte has been venting his fury at the CPP-NPA almost on a daily basis and considers them as much of a security threat as a plethora of domestic Islamist militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

By declaring the groups and individuals terrorists, the government would be able to monitor them closer, track finances and restrict their access to resources, among other things.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the Maoist rebellion. Negotiations have been on and off since being brokered by Norway in 1986.

Duterte, for his part, said the military could defeat the NPA this year because many rebels are surrendering.

Duterte said government forces and local officials have been active in convincing the insurgents to lay down their arms.

“We are trying to really go out and just embrace them as brothers and at no other time, there were several firearms. If they become decimated by the number of surrenderees, maybe the Armed Forces can finish them off next year,” Duterte told local officials in Clark, Pampanga on Wednesday. 

“They can take whatever initiatives they want... the killing continues but at no other time are the NPAs surrendering with their firearms,” he added. 

The military said more than 2,200 NPA rebels surrendered to the government in the first two months of the year. Officials attributed the high number of surrenders to military and intelligence operations and development programs. 

“We are succeeding hopefully if we can sustain the momentum,” Duterte said. 

The President said the communist rebels who surrendered are vulnerable to attacks by their former comrades. 

“It is taboo to them here and in Mindanao, everywhere, when you surrender and then you turn over your firearms to the soldier or the policeman. They will really hunt you down because that is anathema, a taboo. They will really run after you,” he said. 

Communist insurgency, Duterte said, still poses a problem in the provinces of Abra and Nueva Ecija but the situation is worse in Mindanao, where rebels are bearing firearms. 

“Until now, they go about collecting (revolutionary) taxes,” the President said. 

“Is this the way you treat the civilian if you are in power? You are all sexual predators,” he added, referring to allegations that some NPA rebels are molesting female civilians. 

On Tuesday, Duterte said he might reconsider his decision to scrap the talks with the CPP-NPA if negotiators come up with a ceasefire agreement.    Alexis Romero

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