DOJ pursues CPP terror tag after Sagay massacre

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
DOJ pursues CPP terror tag after Sagay massacre
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the government will be “relentless” in pursuing the proscription petition against the CPP and NPA before the Manila regional trial court (RTC) after the military and police tagged the communist rebels as behind the killing of nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental last month.
Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) is stepping up its bid in court for declaration of over 600 leaders and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorists.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the government will be “relentless” in pursuing the proscription petition against the CPP and NPA before the Manila regional trial court (RTC) after the military and police tagged the communist rebels as behind the killing of nine farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental last month.

“The President has instructed the DOJ to relentlessly pursue the proscription case against the CPP and the NPA,” Guevarra said in an interview yesterday.

The DOJ chief said President Duterte gave the instruction during the meeting of the executive committee of the National Security Council in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

Guevarra explained that the government considers the incident in Sagay, which was linked to the reported plot of the communist group to destabilize the administration and oust Duterte, as an “anarchical activity” and “threat to national security.”

Guevarra bared that the prosecution team of DOJ handling the proscription case will now move for summons by publication after the Manila RTC Branch 19 decided last August to drop four reported CPP leaders as parties in the case – former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo and National Democratic Front peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpus and Jose Melencio Molintas.

“As directed by the court, our prosecutors will publish the entire petition for the purpose of summoning the respondents of the case,” Guevarra said.

Earlier, the proscription case suffered a setback after Manila RTC Branch 19 Judge Mario Madoza-Malagar declared Ocampo, Baylosis, Corpuz and Molintas – who were among 649 individuals listed by the DOJ as leaders and members of the CPP and NPA – as non-parties to the case.

The case has since not moved for about three months, but Guevarra stressed that it has not been dismissed and will now be pursued by the DOJ.

“The ruling of the court pertains only to the service of summons. The court said Ocampo and the three others cannot be summoned because the subjects of the case are groups and not individuals. It had nothing to do with merits of the petition,” Guevarra explained.

“The DOJ just submitted the names of certain persons identified by our intelligence agencies as having links with the CPP and NPA, in the hope that these people will answer the petition on behalf of the respondent organizations,” he pointed out.

After the RTC ruled that individuals cannot be summoned for the proscription case, the DOJ chief said the prosecutors “will just have to resort to causing the service of summons by publication” as directed in the RTC ruling due to the government’s lack of knowledge on the official addresses of the CPP and NPA.

The DOJ filed before the Manila RTC last March the petition seeking to declare communist leaders and their armed members as terrorists.

The DOJ submitted to the court a list of names and aliases of 649 personalities, including Ocampo, Baylosis, Corpus, Molintas and CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, it tagged as terrorists.

Also in the list are alleged CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, former peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni, human rights lawyer and former Baguio City councilor Jose Molintas and Cordillera Administrative Region residents Joanna Cariño, Windel Farag-ey Bolinget, Sherwin de Vera, Beverly Sakongan Longid and Jeannette Ribaya Cawiding.

The petition was filed following the termination of peace talks between the government and the CPP in November last year.

In its petition, the DOJ cited Republic Act 9372 (The Human Security Act of 2007) in seeking the declaration of the CPP and NPA officials and members as terrorists.

The petition accused the CPP-NPA of having an “evil plan of imposing a totalitarian regime.”  

Guevarra has also tapped the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel probe on the killing of nine farmers in Hacienda Nene in Sagay last Oct. 20.

The NBI has already submitted an initial report last week, but the DOJ chief wanted a deeper investigation as he revealed that it had “no clear indication yet as to who were the perpetrators.”

“The initial report of the NBI is basically a narration of what happened before, during and after the attack, based on accounts of witnesses. I directed them to investigate more deeply,” Guevarra stressed.

The DOJ chief likewise tapped the NBI to look into possible link to the Sagay massacre of the killing last week of lawyer Benjamin Ramos, an officer of the National Union of People’s Lawyers who provided legal assistance to families of slain farmers.    

Meeting with Rody

Communist leaders are seeking a meeting with Duterte on the resumption of peace talks, which were terminated by the government last year because of the rebels’ attacks against civilians and security forces. 

Duterte said NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and Jalandoni want to talk to him but are worried that they might be arrested if they come to the Philippines.

“Agcaoili and Jalandoni – I will not keep it a secret. I do not want (it to be) confidential. They will come here. They want to talk to me. Their problem is they might be arrested,” the President said during a biodiversity event on Saturday in Palawan.

“I said, ‘You will really be arrested... They said they want to talk to me. So I called a cluster meeting with the military. So what do you think? They said, ‘maybe.’ It’s not a very big margin there but maybe,” he added. 

Duterte said he was still thinking whether to meet with the communist leaders. 

“So, when I go back after Papua New Guinea and Singapore, I will make the announcement. So let’s talk again because it’s a maybe,” he said.  

Duterte said communists claim to love the country but are “taking advantage” of the lumad or indigenous peoples. He said about 75 percent of the NPA are lumads. 

“It’s time for you to surrender actually. I said I cannot be sure of everything. By the grace of God... in two years, we might achieve peace,” the President said.  – With Alexis Romero




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