Terror-tag plea against the Left: Recycled cases, recycled tactic

A closer look at the DOJ’s petition shows that the incidents cited could not be used as basis for terror listing. Some of the incidents cited in the petition were previously filed in court and eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The 55-page petition filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations is but a recycled tactic against political dissenters.

While the CPP and NPA were named respondents in the petition, it listed over 600 alleged “known officers and members” of the CPP and NPA, many of whom are human rights defenders and peace advocates.

A closer look at the DOJ’s petition shows that the incidents cited could not be used as basis for terror listing. Some of the incidents cited in the petition were previously filed in court and eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.

The petition cited the following alleged incidents of terrorist acts committed by the CPP:

– The August 21, 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing in Manila;
– The anti-infiltration campaigns or purging operations from 1982 to 1988;
– The killing of Filemon “Popoy” Lagman on Feb. 6, 2001 and Romulo Kintanar on Jan. 23, 2003, and Arturo Tabara on Sept. 26, 2004; and,
– Extortion activities in the 1990s up to 1997.

‘Baseless, inaccurate’

According to the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), these four incidents could not be used to declare the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups. These incidents took place years before the passage of the Human Security Act of 2007.

“It is legally impossible to categorize the above alleged incidents as terrorist acts when at that time there was no law yet defining acts of terrorism,” the PILC said in a a motion to dismiss the DOJ’s petition filed March 20 with the Branch 19 of the Manila Regional Trial Court. Bulatlat got a copy of the said motion. The PILC serves as the counsel of former Bayan Muna Representative and journalist Satur Ocampo, one of those listed in the DOJ petition.

READ: Satur’s lawyers seek his dismissal from DOJ list

The PILC also pointed out factual inaccuracies in the petition.

1. The charges filed against Jose Maria Sison et.al for the Plaza Miranda bombing was dismissed by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila on March 2, 1994 for being merely based on sheer speculations.

2. In relation to the killing of Kintanar and Tabara, the charge of inciting to murder filed against Sison was dismissed by The Hague Court in the Netherlands in a decision dated June 26, 2008. A portion of the decision read, “the contents of the case file do not offer sufficient concrete evidence to demonstrate the defendant’s (Sison’s) direct involvement in the imputed facts, which is needed to establish his liability under criminal law.”

READ: Case vs Sison in Netherlands Dismissed

The evidence presented in the Hague Court had been used for the rebellion charge against six party list representatives and scores of other activists. The Supreme Court junked the charges on June 1, 2007 for lack of probable cause and due process.

3. As to the alleged extortion activities in the 1990s, the petition simply enumerated the list of companies who were allegedly collected revolutionary taxes and whose properties were allegedly burned. Nothing in the petition sufficiently supports such claims, the PILC said. Again, the alleged activities took place 15 years before the passage of the Human Security Act.

‘Recycled skeletal remains’

The affidavits attached to the petition have also been recycled. The same affidavits submitted to Branch 32 of the Manila Regional Trial Court, which is hearing the multiple murder charges against Sison, Ocampo and several others, were also submitted by the DOJ to prove the alleged mass graves in Leyte.

It’s been 18 years since the first case in relation to the alleged mass graves was filed. PILC’s Rachel F. Pastores has maintained that the Leyte mass graves case is a “case of traveling skeletons.

In July 2000, a complaint for multiple murder was filed against 25 alleged NPA guerrillas in connection with the alleged mass grave found in Monterico village, Baybay Leyte. On January 10, 2005, the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Six years later, multiple murder charges were filed in connection with another alleged mass grave in another town, in Inopacan.

Five of the victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims in the Hilongos case, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.

READ: Kapila Ilubong Ang Patay? (How Often will You Bury the Dead?)

READ: Witness says military ordered digging of alleged mass graves twice

READ: Leyte ‘Mass Grave’ was a Military ‘No-man’s Land’ – Karapatan

In a phone interview with Bulatlat, Pastores said, “The case is still ongoing and the claims remain unsubstantiated.”

One of the witnesses claimed in her affidavit that she saw Ocampo in a meeting somewhere in Leyte in 1984 when in fact Ocampo was still in detention that very year.

Another respondent in the Leyte mass grave case and was also listed in the DOJ petition, Vicente Ladlad, was also in military captivity in 1984.

Also named respondents in the Leyte mass grave case and listed in the DOJ petition are NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Randall Echanis and Rafael Baylosis.

Echanis was arrested on Jan. 28, 2008 on charges of 15 counts of multiple murder in relation to the Leyte mass graves. The Supreme Court granted him temporary freedom in Aug. 2009.

Former political prisoners

Also included in the DOJ’s terror list are victims of political persecution by the previous administrations. They were detained and eventually released after all the charges against them were dismissed.

– Randy Felix Malayao endured nearly five years of imprisonment from 2008 to 2012 under the regimes of Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III. Malayao was acquitted of all the charges filed against him.

READ: Cagayan Political Prisoner Acquitted of Murder Charges

READ: NDFP consultant released on bail

– Axel Pinpin was one of the so-called Tagaytay 5 arrested on rebellion charges in April 2006 and were released on Aug. 20, 2008 after the court dismissed the charges.

– Zara Alvarez was arrested on Oct. 30, 2012 and was accused of killing a soldier. She was released on bail in 2014.

Romulo Bito-on ans Rogina Quilop were arrested on April 2010 and were charged with arson. Both were eventually released. Quilop, administrative officer of the Center for People’s Resources and Services, Inc. (CPRS) was arrested by again on Feb. 7, 2017 by policemen in Bacolod City. She was charged with murder.

– The nine-member Karapatan quick reaction team arrested on November 20, 2017 in Nasugbu, Batangas. They were on their way to Utod village, Nasugbu, Batangas to monitor civilian casualties from an earlier encounter between the military and the NPA. Elements of the Philippine National Police and soldiers of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) arrested and detained them at the Nasugbu municipal jail without formal charges.

– Sison has also been delisted from European Union list of foreign terrorists after he won a case in the Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance. The court said the European Council decision ordering the freezing of Sison’s funds “had been taken in breach of the rights of defence, the obligation to state reasons and the right to effective judicial protection.”

READ: Sison Claims ‘Significant Victory’ Vs. US, Philippines

Recent cases

The recent cases cited in the petition, meanwhile, were ambushes launched by the NPA against military and police personnel and two multinational corporations accused of land grabbing that took place from March 8, 2017 until December 12, 2017.

The PILC argued, “While the petition alleges that the 12 incidents are acts of terror being used by the CPP and NPA to sow and create a condition of panic among the populace, there is nothing in the pleading or in the annexes that would show the basis of such assertion.”

Severe implications

Pastores said that while previous administrations had also filed trumped-up charges against political dissenters, the terror tag could have severe implications. “If you are labeled a terrorist, you are not covered by international humanitarian law. It’s like having a ‘shoot-to-kill’ order against you,” she told Bulatlat.

The human rights lawyer said the banners hanging along Edsa maligning leaders of people’s organizations and peace consultants as terrorists pose threats to the life, liberty and security of those tagged.

The PILC pointed out that the Human Security Act treats suspected and judicially declared terrorists alike. “Both are sanctioned with surveillance, interceptions and recording conversations, prolonged arbitrary detention, examination and freezing of bank deposits and assets, and travel ban, among others.” ()

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