By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Lawyers lambasted President Rodrigo Duterte for branding Piston and other progressive groups as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In a speech in Pili, Camarines Sur, Duterte said, “Itong Karapatan, itong KMU, itong Piston, they are just the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Kaya nga CPP, NDF, pati the NPA, the New People’s Army. It’s a one big conspiracy but they are at the same time, all of them, are committing right now rebellion,” he said.
“It’s a one big conspiracy, mayroon sila, kita mo yung Piston may star pa ng, that’s the logo of the communists,” Duterte added.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) came to the defense of Piston, which led the two-day transport strike against the corporatization of public transport.
“The legitimate and valid exercise of peaceful collective action and freedom of speech and assembly cannot by any convoluted reading amount to any crime, much less rebellion,” the lawyers said in a statement.
The NUPL said the elements of the crime did not exist at all in the two-day transport strike of jeepney drivers who opposed the phase out of old jeepneys.
Article 134, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines of 1930, as amended by Republic Act No. 6968 of 1990 defines rebellion as “rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.”
“Aside from unilaterally revising the law and reinterpreting it to suit one’s draconian fetishes, to label legitimate and legal people’s actions is a foreboding of worse things to come,” the NUPL said.
The human rights lawyers noted that Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also routinely charged activists, dissenters and critics with the political offense of rebellion to silence, intimidate or punish them.
“It is bad enough that political prisoners are routinely charged with non-bailable common crimes instead of the proper legal charge of rebellion. It is manifoldly worse that poor and hungry jeepney drivers and their supporters will be accused or charged with ‘rising and taking arms’ when all they did was raise their flags, placards and fists,” they said.
In reaction, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) called on Duterte to stick to the issue.
“Duterte has the mindset of a dictator! When the poor exercise their right to speak up against threats to their livelihood, he brands their actions as ‘conspiracy’ and ‘rebellion,’”KMU said in a separate statement.