Anti-Terrorism Council designates red-tagged community doctor a terrorist

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Anti-Terrorism Council designates red-tagged community doctor a terrorist
This undated photo shows Dr. Ma. Natividad Castro.
Facebook / Jun Castro

MANILA, Philippines — The Anti-Terrorism Council has designated red-tagged community doctor Natividad “Naty” Castro a terrorist under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, passage of which raised fears across sectors over the potential of abuse.

ATC Resolution No. 35 said the panel, chaired by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, found probable cause to designate Castro as a "terrorist individual" for alleged violations of Sections 6 (Planning, Training, Preparing, and Facilitating), 10 (Recruit, Membership) and 12 (Providing Material Support) of the anti-terror law.

The power of the ATC to designate — heavily contested at the Supreme Court oral arguments but upheld mostly intact at the end — effectively triggers the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s authority to freeze Castro’s assets.

Specifically, Castro was designated “for planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism and recruitment to and membership in, and providing material support to terrorist organizations or groups organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism,” the Anti-Terrorism Council said in its resolution.

The ATC also insisted that Castro holds “various key positions” in the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines, although the Free Legal Assistance Group and the medical community have categorically denied that the community health worker is a terrorist, or even a communist.

She also supposedly has a hand in “generation, management and supervision of CPP-NPA-NDF/NDFP’s funds sourced locally and abroad, and its subsequent allotment schemes.”

The ATC, in a separate press statement, said that Castro has 15 days to request delisting.

Castro’s arrest

Castro was arrested in February 2022 on kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges. She was ordered released on March 25 by the Agusan del Norte Regional Trial Court Acting Presiding Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr. as he dismissed the case due to "denial of her substantive right to due process" and "lack of jurisdiction over the person of the accused."

But the Department of Justice in June 2022 said the court ruling was reversed and Castro was ordered re-arrested. In the said resolution, the court gave weight to the prosecution’s assertion that Castro is an NPA member.

RELATED: SC asked: Take a second look at anti-terrorism law amid 'deadly consequences'

Castro, an alumna of the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine Class of 1995, served as a community physician in the rural areas of Agusan and other parts of Mindanao since 1996 after her graduation. 

She also presented the plight of the lumads to the United Nations in Geneva. 

Petitioners against the contentious ATA at the SC raised fears of abuse of the law being used against dissenters and even human rights defenders. After lengthy debates, the SC ultimately kept the law mostly intact and held it constitutional for the majority of its parts.

The SC, in April 2022, upheld its earlier ruling and dismissed appeals by petitioners due "lack of substantial issues and arguments raised by the petitioners."



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