Defending the move, Cayetano said Tauli-Corpuz – a Filipino – was included in the list not because of her position as special rapporteur but due to her alleged links with the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). AFP/File

‘Terror tag vs United Nations expert has basis’
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano insisted there is basis for the inclusion of UN special rapporteur on indigenous people Victoria Tauli-Corpuz in the list of alleged communists whom the Philippine government wants to be declared as terrorists.

Defending the move, Cayetano said Tauli-Corpuz – a Filipino – was included in the list not because of her position as special rapporteur but due to her alleged links with the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and the other individuals mentioned in the petition are there because of their membership in or association with the CPP-NPA as reported over the years by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Cayetano said on Friday.

“If indeed Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and the others named in the petition are innocent as they claim they are, they should see this as an opportunity to clear their names and prove in court that they have never been members of or associated with the group,” he added.

Cayetano said the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a petition before a Manila court is in accordance with the Human Security Act of 2007.

He noted the CPP-NPA is among the list of terrorist organizations of the United States and the European Union.

Cayetano made the statement in response to critics who called out the Philippine government over the inclusion of Tauli-Corpuz in the list of some 600 individuals, including exiled CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison and chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni.

Also named were Sison’s wife Juliet de Lima, Jalandoni’s wife Connie Ledesma, former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo and alleged CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Sison should just answer the petition instead of muddling the issue.

Roque said Sison should avail of legal remedies and if he claims President Duterte is the number one terrorist, then he should file a similar petition with the court.

Roque also assured the international community that the Philippine government has enough evidence to pin down Tauli-Corpuz.  

He also appealed to the United Nations Council to conduct an intensified background check on the personalities they appoint as special rapporteurs.

“I assure everyone including the international community that this is not a witch hunt on UN special rapporteurs,” Roque said.

“Instead, perhaps, the UN rapporteur system should fine tune its selection process to ensure that individuals identified with terrorist groups are not given any mandate by the UN Human Rights Council,” he added.

Retaliation

Among those who criticized the Philippines were Tauli-Corpuz’s fellow rapporteurs, who said her inclusion is a retaliation for her statements condemning violations against indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

“We are shocked that the special rapporteur is being targeted because of her work defending the rights of indigenous peoples,” read the statement signed by UN special rapporteur for situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst and Coordination Committee of the UN Special Procedures chair Catalina Devandas Aguilar.

“The accusation against her comes after the public comments made, jointly with other special rapporteurs, in relation to the militarization, attacks and killings of indigenous lumad peoples by members of the armed forces in Mindanao; this accusation is considered as an act of retaliation for such comments,” they added.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon also criticized the inclusion of Tauli-Corpuz, saying she is entitled to immunities and protection accorded to experts of the UN system.

“The Philippines has a particular duty to ensure her safety and security,” Gascon said.

“I join the call for these charges against her to be dropped in order that she may remain unhindered in performing her mandate here and elsewhere she may be called upon to undertake her investigations,” he added,

In their joint statement, the UN experts noted the Philippine government’s obligation under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations that provide experts from immunity from legal proceedings of every kind.

They added that as a human rights defender, the Philippines also has the duty to guarantee her right to promote and to strive for the realization of human rights.

“We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately drop these unfounded accusations against Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and to ensure her physical safety and that of others listed,” the UN experts said.

“The attack against the special rapporteur is taking place in the context of widespread extrajudicial executions and ongoing attacks against voices who are critical of the current government, including human rights defenders. The President has himself publicly intimidated special rapporteurs,” they added.

Human rights group Karapatan also slammed the DOJ petition, likening it to the military’s order of battle list of personalities that must be neutralized.

Karapatan added the Philippine government has just purchased $200,000 worth of surveillance equipment from a British security firm. 

“There is significant possibility that the said British spyware sold by the UK to the Duterte government will be used, if not being already used illegally, against activists and human rights defenders, whether or not their names are in the said proscription list,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan said the DOJ list of suspected communist rebels is “severely defective” as it contains only aliases.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Antonio Flores also described the DOJ petition as a “poison list.”

“This poison list disguising as petition filed by the DOJ is actually a kill list and an arrest list. Anyone can be a target of extrajudicial killing or illegal arrest using this DOJ petition as a pretext,” Flores said.

“There are hundreds of names in the petition, many are aliases that were obviously invented by the DOJ and its sources,” he added.

Not true

Tauli-Corpuz denied being a member of the CPP-NPA.

“I denounce this act by the Department of Justice of including me in the list,” she said. “I am not connected at all in anyway to those organizations nor do I have any knowledge, much less participation, with the alleged incidents cited in the petition.”

Tauli-Corpuz said she is currently consulting with lawyers to address the “baseless, malicious and irresponsible” inclusion of her name in the list.

She vowed to make accountable those people who put her life and security at risk with her inclusion in the list.

Malacañang had accused Tauli-Corpuz and Filipina special rapporteur for internally displaced people Cecilia Jimenez-Damary of embarrassing the country in the international stage for their statements criticizing the status of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

The two rapporteurs warned that the ongoing militarization of Mindanao is having a massive and potentially irreversible impact on the human rights of some of the island’s indigenous lumad communities.

“We urge the Philippines to observe its obligations under international law to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples, including in the context of armed conflict. The authorities must ensure that all human rights abuses are halted and that there is justice and accountability for past attacks,” they said in a statement.

“This includes killings and attacks allegedly carried out by members of the armed forces against the indigenous communities,” added the rapporteurs.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the two Filipino rapporteurs are embarrassing the Duterte administration when they publicly expressed concern on the possible escalation of militarization in Mindanao.

He said the two special rapporteurs should have documented the cases of alleged rights abuses and brought these cases to proper authorities instead of making a public statement. – Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Artemio Dumlao, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

ALAN PETER CAYETANO COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE NEW PEOPLE’S ARMY DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HUMAN SECURITY ACT OF 2007 VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ
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