MANILA, Philippines — The more than 600 persons listed in government’s petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations” is a hodge-podge that includes not only actual and suspected rebels but also human rights experts and defenders and even members of a pro-government militia.
“There is no doubt that the filing of the petition is an effort to sow fear and panic among (President Rodrigo) Duterte’s detractors, subjectively prepare the public for more intense political repression, and be the front act of a crackdown against the dictator wannabe’s critics,” the human rights Karapatan said.
The president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Edre Olalia, who called the list “an odd concoction,” said the petition was “part of a shotgun witchhunt designed to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the critics, dissenters, social activists, human rights defenders and revolutionaries alike to give in to the government’s repressive demand.”
The most prominent human rights expert listed in the petition filed by the Department of Justice is Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, a Cordillera native who is United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and former chair of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
But aside from Corpuz, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the list also names Joan Carling, past secretary general of the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact and former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; lawyer Jose Molintas, former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Beverly Longid, gobal coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation; Sandugo co-chairperson Joanna Cariño; Cordillera People’s Alliance chair Windel Bolinget; “and at least 10 lumad datu … in Northern and Southern Mindanao.”
“Even more unbelievable is the inclusion in the list of the names of the nine-member Karapatan quick reaction team arrested in November 2017 and (human rights) defenders in Negros,” she added.
Palabay worried that the activists included in the list could be “arrested based on false charges, incarcerated and even tortured, missing or killed’ like those included in so-called military “orders of battle.”
But she also noted that “the list also contains seven names of paramilitary group members including four from the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army, led by Alde ‘Butchoy’ Salusad, who have standing warrants for the killing of lumad leader Datu Jimmy Liguyon” in 2012.
Palabay said these militiamen “also have been presented and paid as surrenderees, consistent to their being all-purpose pawns in the military’s repressive schemes.”
Jose Ma. Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said lawyers of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the rebels, are studying the DOJ petition but mainly for “how it prejudices the interests of its components and constituency and kills any prospect of resuming peace negotiations” with government.
However, he said, “I do not think that the CPP and NPA will approach the Manila RTC (regional trial court) directly or through counsel” to challenge the petition since “they adhere to the people´s democratic government, which has its own judicial system.”
“In my case, I am protected as a recognized political refugee by the Refugee Convention and by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” which, he said, “protects me from deportation to the Philippines or to a third country and preempts my being put at risk of being subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment which I had suffered under the Marcos regime.”
Sison said he was also protected by the 2009 decision of the European Court of Justice removing him from the EU terrorist list and ending accompanying sanctions on him.