Terrorism defined by actions

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

The Philippines, flustered by several decades of having to fight a pesky communist insurgency, has chosen to add the courts as a new battleground. Unfortunately, it lost the first round when the Regional Trial Court in Manila threw out a Department of Justice petition seeking to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as terrorist groups.

The petition came on the heels of a 2018 proclamation by then president Rodrigo Roa Duterte designating the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. A mere designation may only allow government to freeze the group's known assets and bank accounts. Unless the courts proscribe, or prohibit, the CPP-NPA from certain acts, government cannot go after it with stiffer legal initiatives away from the battlefields.

The DOJ said it will no longer appeal the Manila RTC decision but instead file a new petition with the Court of Appeals on the basis of a different law. I do not think a shift to a different judicial venue will seriously dent the threat posed by the CPP-NPA. If at all, the move to the courts only serves to glorify, even dignify, these terrorists and paints them in formidable colors instead of as a fading shadow that has lost all meaning.

The CPP-NPA has precisely become a terrorist organization because communism no longer makes sense in the real world. Terrorism has become the only way to sustain the livelihood of those in the organization who cannot move on or are too lazy to find a more decent means of making a living. It is even doubtful if the communists still have a centralized leadership or has become ragtag bands out to survive.

To me, and I think many will agree, terrorism cannot be defined by any court decision or judicial edict. Such a declaration is only for a purpose that can lose its specific usefulness over time. Terrorism is what it is in the eyes, hearts, and minds of people who experience it, suffer from it, witness it. The scars of terrorism will stay long after the demise of the CPP-NPA renders moot any court declaration.

The CPP-NPA cannot claim innocence over the casualties of its war nor invoke collateral damage to cover for the destruction in its wake because there is an element of willfulness, or even a sense of purpose, in every action it undertakes to overthrow the government. There cannot be any sugarcoating with loftier ideals any unprincipled means to carry out an objective.

When you bomb a bus full of people, you are a terrorist. There are no two ways about it, regardless of what any court might say. When you topple power and communication lines that perform vital public services, you are a terrorist, no matter how you justify it as a strike against capitalist giants. When you strike fear in people's hearts, deprive them of the freedom to go where they want, you are a terrorist. And that is that.

The communism the CPP-NPA terrorists are claiming to be fighting for (assuming they have not become just plain bandits) is an idea they want to impose on everyone. It is not a de facto principle already guiding the conduct of life that must be protected and saved. The terrorists are trying to force their way in, not defenders trying to keep the enemy out.

In short, the CPP-NPA is not made up of unsung heroes. They are enemies wanting to impose changes against our will. And when they do that not with open discourse and a debate on better ideas but with violence, threats, and other atrocities, then they become terrorists in every sense. No point in resorting to legal semantics, or worse, political correctness.


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