Community doctor designated as terrorist

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Community doctor designated as terrorist
Natividad Castro
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has officially designated community doctor Natividad Castro as a terrorist and allegedly an active member of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Arrested on kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges in February last year, the 53-year old medical worker was known for initiating health programs for an indigenous tribe in Mindanao, bringing members of the Lumad community before the United Nations in Geneva to seek help against harassment in the areas where they live, and serving as secretary general of the group Karapatan.

The ATC announced yesterday that Castro has been officially designated as a terrorist through Resolution No. 35 issued last month.

ATC Resolution No. 36 meanwhile declared the Al Khobar-Salahuddin Hassan Group, which allegedly has links to the Daulah Islamiyah, as a terrorist group.

The ATC said the terrorist designations are in accordance with Paragraph 3, Section 25 of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

“Verified information, sworn statements, and other evidence gathered by Philippine law enforcement and security agencies affirmed that Maria Natividad Marian Silva Castro, aka Doc Naty or Ka Naty, among her CPP aliases, violated Sections 6, 10, and 12 of the ATA for her active role and involvement in support of the goal of the CPP-NPA-NDF of seizing political power through violent means through planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism, and for recruitment to and membership in, and providing material support to terrorist organizations or groups organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism,” the ATC said.

As for the Al Khobar group, the ATC said it belongs to the local violent extremist groups with links to Daesh that were also designated by the ATC as a terrorist organization in 2020.

The ATC said it is a terrorist group formed out of a dismantled team operating under the Special Operations Group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the early 2000s that preyed on multinational firms operating in South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani provinces and General Santos City.

In both Resolutions, the ATC said Castro and the Al Khobar Group may file appeals or a request for delisting within 15 days from publication of the decisions.

Castro was arrested in February last year based on a warrant for kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases but a month later, the court ordered her release and dismissed the charges on grounds of “denial of her substantive right to due process” and “lack of jurisdiction over the person of the accused.”

Three months later in June 2022, another judge of the Agusan del Sur regional trial court ordered her re-arrest reversing an earlier ruling junking the charges.

“Upon personal review/re-evaluation of the evidence of records, including the affidavits of the victim, witnesses and the prosecution’s resolution in the conduct of Preliminary Investigation and considering the totality of the evidence on record, this court finds Probable Cause for the second time to issue Warrant of Arrest,” the new ruling read.

The charges against Castro stem from her alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit member in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur in 2018.

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