Anti-terrorism law not intended vs CPP-NPA

AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2018 - 12:00am

Yesterday the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 in Manila began hearing a motion, filed in my behalf by the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), to dismiss the Department of Justice petition asking the court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist and outlawed organizations,” pursuant to the Human Security Act of 2007 (RA 9372, the anti-terrorism law).

Why am I involved in this civil court procedure, and why am I moving for the outright dismissal of the DoJ petition?

While the petition explicitly asks the court to declare as “terrorists” the two revolutionary organizations, it seeks to implicate me as one of their alleged “known officers” with home addresses, through whom “respondents CPP and NPA… may be served with summons and other processes” of the court. On March 2, the court’s sheriff came to my home, handed me a copy of the petition and a summons, requiring me to answer the petition within 15 days. I asked the PILC, through managing counsel Atty. Rachel Pastores, for legal advice and they readily agreed to handle the matter for me.

I have publicly denounced my inclusion in the petition’s listing of alleged “officers and members” of the CPP-NPA, which implies that these persons are also to be tagged as terrorists. It’s a mishmash of over 600 names of known mass leaders, peace negotiators and consultants, human rights defenders including a United Nations special rapporteur, plus 187 aliases of alleged underground revolutionary leaders. Rightfully, the listing has been denounced by several local, national, and international organizations.

I have also categorically denied prior knowledge of and participation in any of the alleged terrorist acts cited to support the petition. And in the motion to dismiss it, filed by the PILC on March 19, I reiterate the denunciation and denial.

My lawyers and I have gone over the petition and its attachments. We found no incontrovertible proof to establish as fact that I am a current officer or member of the CPP or the NPA. And we didn’t find any credible, much less verifiable evidence on my alleged participation in any of the “acts of terror” attributed to the two organizations.

Because the petition doesn’t cite me as a respondent and fails to show a cause for action against me, there is no valid legal basis for the court to acquire jurisdiction over my person. Moreover, it fails to show convincing evidence to back up a declaration that the CPP and NPA are terrorist organizations. Ergo, I contend that the court should dismiss the petition.

Furthermore, as a former three-term member and Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, I actively participated in the deliberations on and opposed the Arroyo administration bill that became RA 9372.

I can therefore say confidently that, as a matter of fact, the legislators who framed and sponsored this anti-terrorism law had stated, in the congressional records, that it was NOT intended to apply to the CPP-NPA.

But first, let’s deal with the essence of the DoJ petition. It claims: “Respondents CPP and the NPA were organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism and, for almost half a century have been, and are still, using acts of terror to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to overthrow the duly constituted authorities and seize control of the Philippine government through armed struggle.”

Look at the facts: The CPP was organized in 1968 and the NPA, in 1969. The anti-terrorism law was legislated only in 2007, or 39 years later. So how can the DoJ claim that the two organizations were organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism, as it’s defined by the law?

Or for that matter, how can the DoJ show that, for almost 50 years, the CPP-NPA has used acts of terror “to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace”-- a required element of an act of terror under RA 9372? The petition doesn’t present any proof showing such a condition having been created by any of the acts it cites.

Note the last phrase in the ground cited by the DoJ: “…in order to overthrow the duly constituted authorities and seize control of the Philippine Government through armed struggle.” This is not an element of an act of terror as defined in Section 17 of RA 9372. The exact phrase in the law, after “to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace,” is: “in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

Unlawful demand. Can you imagine the CPP-NPA openly demanding from the government: “Let us overthrow you, or else…”?

Yet the petition, claiming that in 12 incidents in 2017 the CPP-NPA committed murder, kidnapping and arson to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace “in order to coerce the Philippine Government to give in to its unlawful demand, i.e., for the CPP-NPA to overthrow the duly constituted authorities and seize control of the Philippine Government.”

The DoJ must read the transcripts of the deliberations on the final draft of RA 9372 by the Congressional Bicameral Committee on Feb. 8, 2007. I participated in the deliberations. To my question why rebellion was included in the Senate version as a potential act of terror, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, committee chair, replied:

“We are not punishing rebellion in this law. We are punishing terrorism…terrorism is not an act of toppling the government, which is the function of rebellion. You are engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the state but you are not terrorists.” (At that time, my five partylist colleagues in the House and I were being charged with rebellion, accused of being CPP-NPA leaders responsible for all the “atrocities” allegedly committed by the NPA since 1969. In June 2007 the Supreme Court quashed the charge.)

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., addressing Enrile and me, interposed this comment: “Our inputs here will necessarily be considered in the interpretation of the law at the proper time. That is why your inputs [and] the responses of our chairman would be very useful in telling our law enforcement agencies that this law cannot just apply to people engaged in rebellion, unless they commit specific acts that tend to sow widespread confusion or terror among our people.” Enrile quickly added: “Widespread and extraordinary [fear and panic]… But even then, there must be other elements.” Touché!

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Email: satur.ocampo@gmail.com.

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