Philippines Brands 16 Groups as Communist Party ‘Terrorist’ Affiliates

Camille Elemia
2022.02.23
Manila
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Philippines Brands 16 Groups as Communist Party ‘Terrorist’ Affiliates Communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas stop a vehicle at a checkpoint in Lagonlong, a town in Misamis Oriental province, southern Philippines, May 2, 2016.
[Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews]

The Philippine government has officially branded 16 left-leaning groups as “terrorist” organizations, saying they funnel money to communist insurgents, according to a document from the Anti-Terrorism Council made public on Wednesday.

The council named the groups as “underground organizations” of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), which have been waging a rebellion against Manila since 1969. The communist party rejected the allegations as “baseless.”

In Resolution 28, dated Jan. 26, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the decision was “based on verified and validated information, as well as testimonial and documentary evidence.” 

He cited the 2020 Anti-Terror Act, which allows the council to designate a domestic or foreign individual, group, or organization as terrorists.

The council “found probable cause warranting the designation” of the 16 underground organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines “as terrorist groups of persons, or associations for having committed or attempting to commit or conspire in the acts defined and penalized” in the Anti-Terror Act, said a copy of the four-page resolution obtained by BenarNews.

“Designation plays a critical role in the fight against terrorism and is an effective means to eliminate, prevent or suppress the financing of terrorist acts, the provision of support to entities and persons involved in terrorist acts, the recruitment of members of terrorist groups, and the supply of weapons to terrorists,” Esperon Jr., who is the vice-chairperson of the council, said in the resolution.

The 16 groups are “necessary and indispensable in the spotting, developing, recruitment, and dispatch of cadres, given that membership in an underground organization is a requirement prior to becoming a cadre of the CPP-NPA,” the council said.

The council also noted that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, who was earlier tagged as a “designated terrorist individual,” had reportedly identified the 16 groups as allies of the National Democratic Front (NDF), which was designated a terrorist group in 2021. 

The NDF is the communist party’s political wing.

Communists condemn

The party denounced the council’s decision and denied that the leftist groups were fronts for it or the New People’s Army.

“In fact, all the 16 organizations targeted are patriotic and democratic and have long been fighting for the rights and interests of their represented sectors,” Marco Valbuena, the spokesman for the communists, said in a statement issued Wednesday. 

“Many of these groups are among those which persisted in the difficult struggles during the dark period of martial law.”

The groups designated as terrorists by the government range from organizations helping poor communities in far-flung areas to lawyers representing the downtrodden, an artists’ organization, as well as one representing laborers and overseas-based Filipino workers, among others.

Valbuena alleged that the Council’s decision was partly intended to sway the May presidential election in favor of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, the incumbent president.

The duo are frontrunners in pre-election surveys.

Duterte, a self-proclaimed leftist, was once a university student of Sison. One of Duterte’s first acts after winning the 2016 presidential elections was to engage the insurgents in talks. But the negotiations fell through the following year, with both sides accusing each other of continuing attacks despite talks.

“The resolution again proves how the so-called Anti-Terrorism Law is a law for political repression and state terrorism. It is being used by Duterte and his stooges to perpetuate the oppressive and exploitative system and his tyrannical regime,” Valbuena added.

Signed into law by Duterte in July 2020, the Anti-Terror Act updated an earlier measure that the country’s security establishment criticized as “lacking teeth” in catching and prosecuting terror suspects.

Thirty-seven petitions sought to nullify provisions of the law as unconstitutional, making it one of the most challenged pieces of legislation before the Supreme Court.

The court mostly ruled in its favor, as it upheld the constitutionality of most provisions, including the Anti-Terror Council’s power to designate a person or group a terrorist even before a trial. 

Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro, southern Philippines.

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