By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The 600 individuals listed as “terrorists,” have been taken off an amended court petition filed on Jan. 7 by the Department of Justice to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army as terror groups.
The new petition filed with the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 in Manila no longer includes Joan Carling, who was bestowed the title 2018 Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme; and five Baguio activists like Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding.
The new petition only names CPP founder Jose Maria Sison; Jorge Madlos who is allegedly of the NPA national operations command; , Jaime Padilla, alleged commander of the NPA in southern Luzon; Francisco Fernandez, who allegedly heads the CPP commission in the Visayas, alongside alleged Visayas deputy secretary Cleofe Lagtapon; Antonio Cabanatan, alleged secretary of the CPP Mindanao commission; Leonido Nabong, alleged military leader of the Mindanao communist rebellion’ and Myrna Sularte, also alleged of the NPA Mindanao operations.
Cawiding, former chair of the Tongtongan ti Umili and coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the new petition removes them from immediate danger posed by being labeled as terrorists, but said government spying on non-government organizations remains as a threat to free speech and the assertion of human rights.
“This is a partial victory, but we cannot let our guard down,” Cawiding said. She points to the present red-tagging of ACT and harassment of teachers who are ACT members as proof that the threat against activists and government critics will continue.
“Harassment has been continuous against progressive organizations, like ACT, the delisting of the individuals named in the DOJ proscription does not guarantee the protection of our rights and our safety because the Philippine National Police and Malacanang are justifying their withchhunt in the context of EO 70,” Cawiding said.
EO 70 which was signed last December directs the creation of a national task force headed by the President and vice-chaired by the National Security Adviser to end local communist armed conflict and pushed for localized peace talks.
EO, which was signed on Dec. 4, Duterte directed the adoption of a national peace framework and institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach to attain “inclusive and sustainable peace” in the country to supposedly “address the root causes” of the armed conflict.
The court earlier directed the DOJ to remove the names of Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Concerns and former Baguio councilor Jose Molintas. Molintas was also a former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).
Corpuz, Carling, Longid and Molintas are former leaders of the militant Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), which Cariño helped establish as an indigenous peoples’ rights group that opposed the Marcos regime. Bolinget is the current CPA chair.
Bolinget said strong protests pushed the DOJ to amend its proscription petition. But he said the threat does not end. “They wanted the proscription of the CPP NPA as terrorist asap by focusing on few names. Once it is proscribed as terrorist, people they suspect, vilify and attack as fronts, supporters etc will be linked and later considered terrorists. This is the danger,” he said.
IFI Bishop Vermilon Tagalog, chair of the regional coordinating committee of the Ilocos Network for the Environment also known as Defend Ilocos welcomed the amended DOJ petition but said “the removal of names does not guarantee their safety”.
“The mere existence of the DOJ petition remains a clear threat especially with the insistent communist-tagging of Duterte’s administration of activists and progressive organizations,” Tagalog added.
It can be recalled that Sherwin De Vera, a regional coordinator of Defend Ilocos and a journalist was also among the 600 named in the “terror list”.
Tagalog said that the Human Security Act of 2007, the DOJ’s basis for the filing of the proscription petition is not just directed against “terrorists” but also to critics of the government.
“We call on all environmental defenders to remain vigilant and steadfast in the fight against efforts of the administration to impose its tyrannical rule and clamped-down on our democratic rights,” he said. # nordis.net