Reversing the gains of Phl democracy
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2019 - 12:00am

A proposal to revive a dead law has – to use a cliché – stirred up a hornets’ nest. The proposal came from Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año who, ironically, is better known to be a tight-lipped official since his military service days. A retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, Año suddenly turned vocal about making public his proposal coming out of the blue. 

Now as Cabinet member of President Rodrigo Duterte, Año proposed to bring back the repealed Republic Act (RA) 1700, otherwise known as the Anti-Subversion Law of 1957. The late president Ferdinand Marcos invoked RA 1700 as basis for his Revised Anti-Subversion Law with several Presidential Decrees (PD) codified into the Anti-Subversion Law of 1981 under PD 1835.

These Anti-Subversion laws, among other things, outlawed membership to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm – the New People’s Army (NPA) – “and any of its successors of such organizations or similarly purposed organizations” that persist in their objective to overthrow by violence the duly constituted government and seize political power in order to replace it with their own system based on communist ideology.

It was the late president Corazon Aquino who first repealed PD1835 when she issued Executive Order (EO) 167, Series of 1987. Subsequently, a former AFP chief of staff, Fidel V. Ramos, a few months after getting elected to become president, convinced the 9th Congress to repeal RA 1700 with the passage into law of RA 7636 on Sept. 22, 1992.

“Republic Act 1700 was passed 35 years ago – when communism seemed the wave of the future – by a Philippine state fearful of being submerged in its tide. Today we repeal it – confident of our national stability and confirmed in the resilience of our democracy,” Ramos cited in his speech during the signing rites at Malacañang Palace. “By assuring communist insurgents of political space, we also challenge them to compete under our constitutional system and free market of ideas – which are guaranteed by the rule of law,” he pointed out.

It was a landmark law that Mr. Ramos pushed to bring back the CPP-NPA, along with its political umbrella group called the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), to negotiate again with the government.

However, the peace overtures of the Ramos administration went to naught as self-exiled CPP chairman Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison opted to continue waging their armed struggle to overthrow the government and capitalists out of our country. Safety ensconced at his far away political refuge at The Hague, Netherlands, Joma claimed their NPA cadres still get directions from his leadership in their revolutionary extortion, bombing attacks, and other terrorist activities. 

Thus, the NPA remains classified as foreign terrorist organization by the United States and certain European countries up to now. The AFP, on the other hand, classified the NPA rebels as communist terrorists.

In the end, however, Mr. Ramos was vindicated when erstwhile underground left-leaning groups supporting the CPP-NPA-NDFP started coming out in the open and operate above grounds. Testing the waters obviously, Bayan Muna tried and succeeded to win Filipino support when their group run and won with the highest votes that entitled them to three seats as party-list representatives during the 12th Congress.   

From street parliamentarians, the left-leaning leaders became lawmakers of the land.

Enjoying the democratic space that was once deprived of people with communist ideology, other left-leaning groups like Gabriela, Anak-pawis, Kabataan etc. followed suit, run and won as party-list representatives. They, too, enjoyed the perks of the “pork-barrel” for regular congressmen. And those government funds also became funding sources that found its way to support the NPA rebels, one way or another. 

This is why, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, also a retired military man, seconded the DILG proposal to outlaw anew the CPP and include these “legal” left which first grouped themselves together as the “Makabayan” bloc during the 17th Congress.

In our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, AFP official spokesman Brig.Gen. Edgard Arevalo also expressed the support of the AFP to the proposal of the DILG Secretary to outlaw anew the CPP and its “legal” left as identified by Lorenzana. “If you look at the actions of… Makabayan bloc, where do they pour their resources? In far-flung areas where there are lots of NPAs,” Lorenzana noted.

What Lorenzana apparently glossed over is the constitutional safeguard ended dramatically the “pork-barrel” funding of congressmen following the Supreme Court ruling that declared it illegal.

Supposedly the NPA armed strength have been degraded already, Arevalo conceded the ragtag communist insurgents in the country continue to pose threats, especially to people in far flung areas of the country. Arevalo admitted the communist terrorist problem in the country is one of the reasons why the police and military establishments also support the proposed bill that seeks to amend RA 9372, or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007.

The bill seeks to strengthen the military and police capability to face the “real and present danger” of local and foreign terrorist groups. Suicide bombers influenced by the deadly Islamic State (IS) international terrorist group were found to be involved in suicide-bombing incidents in Mindanao while NPA rebels carry out attacks using their homemade improvised explosive devices.

Arevalo reassured the public the proposed amendments to RA 9372, also called the “Anti-Terrorism Act,” would be in accordance with existing local and international human rights law. Apparently, the proposed revival of the Anti-Subversion Law is just something to deflect away the heat from the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act.

But why reverse the gains of Philippine democracy with a game plan that is flawed. Anyway, President Duterte has already laid down his End the Local Communist Armed Conflict under EO 70. Or, Año and Lorenzana procrastinating its likely success or doom?

COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES DEMOCRACY REVISED ANTI-SUBVERSION LAW
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