June 19, 2018, 12:49 am
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Gov’t seeks terrorist tag for 600 ‘communist’ rebels

A SPECIAL rapporteur of the United Nations, former party-list representative Satur Ocampo, and four former Catholic priests are among more than 600 alleged communist members government wants declared “terrorists,” according to a government petition filed in court.

The justice department last month announced it wanted a Manila court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), “terrorist” organizations, but made no mention of individuals it would also target.

The petition, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, suggests President Duterte is following through on his threats to destroy a movement he now regards as duplicitous.

Ocampo, of the leftist party-list group Bayan Muna, faces a criminal case over the murder of suspected military spies in the communist movements in the 1980s. He told Reuters he would challenge any “terrorist” label.

The petition also included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who was listed as a senior member of the Maoist rebel group.

In a statement, Tauli-Corpuz denounced the government for including her in the list of those to be declared “terrorists,” calling the allegations “baseless, malicious and irresponsible.”

She said she is not a member of the rebel group and was not involved in its activities, such as arson, murders and kidnapping, as alleged in the petition.

Four former Catholic priests were also named in the case, including Frank Fernandez, whom the government said was an NPA leader in the central Philippines. There was no immediate comment from Fernandez who is said to be secretary of the CPP’s regional committee based in Negros Occidental.

Others included in the petition were 18 top leaders of the communist party as central committee members, including CPP founder Jose Maria Sison and peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, both based in the Netherlands for three decades.

Sison was a mentor of Duterte when he was at university, but the two are now bitter rivals.

Duterte, within weeks of taking office in July 2016, freed some communist leaders and put leftists in his Cabinet, to show his commitment to finding a permanent solution to a five-decade conflict. But he abandoned the process in November, after what he called repeated attacks by the NPA during talks.

The petition said the rebels were “using acts of terror” to sow fear and panic to overthrow the government. By declaring the groups and individuals terrorists, the government would be able to monitor them more closely, track finances and curb access to resources, among other measures.

Duterte has been venting his fury at the communists almost on a daily basis and considers them as much of a security threat as a plethora of domestic Islamist militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

In Pampanga on Wednesday, Duterte said he sees the NPA falling soon, based on the growing number of rebels surrendering to government.

“We are trying to really go out and just embrace them as brothers… If they become decimated by the number of surrenderees, maybe the Armed Forces can finish them off next year,” he said during a meeting with local chief executives of Central Luzon held at a hotel in Clark, Pampanga.

The military has said 2,263 regular NPA members and their supporters have surrendered from January 1 up to March 4. Of the number, 607 were regular NPA rebels. 

Sison has said military psy-war experts fabricated reports on the surrender of thousands of the NPA rebels and supporters.

Duterte has dined with three batches of the former NPA rebels in Malacañang.

Duterte, in Pampanga, said he was glad the rebels also surrendered their firearms. – Raymond Africa and Reuters
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