“It is important to underscore how the decision concluded that the CPP and NPA are not terrorists, rather, are waging armed resistance with clear political aims and directs its attacks, not against civilians, but against agents of the reactionary state represented by the government of the Republic of the Philippines.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 has dismissed the petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist groups on Sept. 21.
In her 135-page decision, Manila RTC Presiding Judge Marlo A. Magdoza-Malagar comprehensively discussed the basis of the decision, tracing the issue from the history of the CPP, its constitution and the evidence and arguments presented by the government.
In a statement, CPP Chief Information Officer Marco L. Valbuena said that they welcome the court’s resolution and said that it is reasonable and fair.
“It is gratifying that the judge took effort to read the constitution and program of the CPP, the provisions of which she declared to be ‘reasonable aspirations of any civilized society,’” Valbuena said.
“It is important to underscore how the decision concluded that the CPP and NPA are not terrorists, rather, are waging armed resistance with clear political aims and directs its attacks, not against civilians, but against agents of the reactionary state represented by the government of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.
In her decision, Malagar said that “rebellion is rooted in a discontent of the existing order which is perceived to be unjust and inequitable to the majority, and favourable to the wealthy, ruling few.”
She said that rebels only resort to violence simply for lack of avenues to be heard and in order to be in a position to significantly change the status quo. She added that CPP’s ideology, calling for the annihilation of the state to give way to the People’s Democratic Revolution which will ultimately lead to the People’s Democratic Republic of the Philippines, is indeed unflinching.
However, she added, “the CPP can only gain adherents for as long as the government remains insensitive to, and incompetent in addressing, the social realities of poverty and material inequality which bring with them the oppression of the marginalized.”
“The government can, while uncompromising in its fight against Communism, regard the CPP’s act of taking the cudgels of the marginalized – as an impetus to better address these sectors’ concerns. If our people should see that reforms could be initiated, and carried out from within, the CPP’s call to arms to overthrow the government, will indubitably, be unheeded,” Malagar said.
The petition was filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in February 2018 with more than 600 names, which the department alleged are members of the revolutionary groups.
The petition was viewed by activists as a hit list as many of the names listed are members and leaders of progressive organizations. The court later on included only two names in the list.
‘Not a terrorist act’
Among the different pieces of evidence presented to the court are the supposed atrocities of the CPP-NPA as well as testimonies of those who claimed to be former members of the rebel group including Jeffrey Celiz. But the court focused its determination whether the CPP-NPA committed acts of terrorism in the nine incidents that the petitioners presented to the court. These are incidents of kidnapping, abduction and killings, which all took place in Mindanao.
According to the court, none of the nine incidents of atrocities allegedly committed by the NPA against civilians “can be said as having caused ‘widespread and extraordinary fear and panic’ among the Philippine populace.”
The court said that it does not dismiss or minimize the loss of lives and property but the said incidents can only be characterized as “pocket and sporadic occurrences” in limited and scattered areas of the country, particularly in specific areas in Mindanao.
“Any fear and panic these incidents may have caused are confined to the communities where they have occurred. In other words, these incidents have not reached ‘widespread’ or ‘extraordinary’ proportions contemplated under Section 3 and 17 of HSA 2007,” Malagar said in her decision.
Section 3 of the Human Security Act of 2007 defines terrorist acts as those committed with the purpose of “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”
Section 17 meanwhile defines terrorist organization, association, or group of persons “organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism, or which, although not organized for that purpose, actually commits acts to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”
The court also said that the nine incidents of atrocities “fall within the category of small-time, ‘hit-and-run’, sporadic acts of violence with no specified victims or targets.”
The court also said that the demand of the CPP for peace negotiations is not an unlawful demand.
“A demand for a peace negotiation or peace talks or cessation of hostilities is, on its face, a valid, lawful demand. Any agenda that may lurk behind such ‘demand’ or may be attributed to it, does not make a demand for peace negotiations any less lawful,” the decision read.
Instead, the court finds the said acts to 1) have been committed to achieve a political purpose; and, 2) have been primarily directed at State agents, and not against civilians.
“Not having met the stringent requirements of HSA of 2007, the nine acts of atrocities committed by the NPA can only qualify as incidents of ‘rebellion,’” the decision read.
What the decision meant for political prisoners
For Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners, the court’s decision is another victory for all those wrongly charged and red-tagged.
She added that “the decision should pave the way for the speedier release of political prisoners charged with trumped-up cases, which like the proscription petition have no leg to stand on because of unfounded and brittle evidence.”
Lim added that the decision in effect thrashes the terrorist labeling of the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as well as the malicious red-tagging of all those who are being linked to them that resulted in numerous political prisoners, some costing their lives.
According to Karapatan’s documentation, political prisoners under President Duterte’s administration grew to more than 800. These are activists, including elderly peace consultants such as Lim’s husband Vicente Ladlad who was slapped with trumped-up charges and was designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council as terrorist.
Lim also lamented the inclusion of Ladlad’s name in the original petition for proscription because of his work as a consultant of the NDFP.
“He never hid this voluntary service despite the risk to his life. Yet he is languishing in prison for nearly four years now for planted firearms while another peace consultant who was also in that list, Randall Echanis, has been salvaged,” Lim said.
Resume peace talks
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the court’s ruling calls on the government to address the roots of the armed conflict to end the insurgency.
They added that the ruling also reminds the government of upholding human rights in the course of fighting the insurgency.
Malagar said in her decision, “Efforts on the part of the present government to counter insurgency should include respect for the right to dissent, to due process and to the rule of law.”
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya also said that this ruling is a reason for the Philippine government to return to the peace negotiation table with the revolutionary groups.
The group is optimistic that the peace talks would not only address the roots of local armed conflict, but will also pave the way to a national patriotic unity against foreign encroachments and military aggressions.
This is because among the substantive agenda of the peace talks is the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reform (CASER), in which the group said, a number of issues on international relations would be discussed, particularly the adoption of active, independent and foreign policies.
Ronnel Arambulo, Pamalakaya national spokesperson, dared President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to back the ruling “by pursuing peace negotiations with revolutionary groups that advance reasonable aspirations of any civilized society, as declared by the honorable Judge Magdoza-Malagar in the provisions itself,” Arambulo said. (RTS, RVO)