The armed conflict in the Philippines has existed for more than 5 decades and the people are desirous that its root causes are addressed to achieve a just and lasting peace. It is time for the Philippine government to remove the arbitrary and erroneous terrorist designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), NDFP peace consultants, political prisoners and other individuals whose basic civil and political rights were violated through the actions of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Instead of the practice of “terrorist designation”, the Philippine government should embark on serious peace negotiations to address the roots of the armed conflict. The Marcos regime is the first post-EDSA regime that has not undertaken peace negotiations with the NDFP.
The terrorist designation is unfair and dangerous as it is politicized, lacks transparency, admissible evidence, nor any objective standards as to what specific acts constitute “terrorism”. As such, the act of designating groups and individuals as terrorists has become arbitrary and subject to grave abuse. This has been so clearly exhibited in the terrorist designation of community doctor Natividad Castro who was unilaterally labeled a terrorist in a resolution that did not provide any credible, competent, and admissible evidence nor specific acts that would support the claim of the ATC.
We take note of the September 2022 decision of the Manila RTC under Judge Marlo Malagar, in a previous case under the Human Security Act, which correctly pointed out that the CPP and NPA are not “terrorist” groups and that their resort to armed struggle is in furtherance of their political program which includes land reform and national industrialization.
The terrorist designation is a stumbling block to peace as it shuts the door to any meaningful peace negotiations and does away with the important agreements made in the course of the peace talks since 1992. These important agreements that provide the foundation and substance for the peace talks include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, as well as initialed drafts on important parts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms that include land reform, rural development, and national industrialization.
The very existence of these bilateral agreements within the framework of peace negotiations, as well as the public recognition and avowed adherence of the NDFP to principles, standards, and instruments of international humanitarian law which govern the conduct of the armed conflict as to the objects, means and methods of warfare; recognize the legitimate status of national liberation movements; and accord rights and protection to those who take part — — as well as, and even more importantly, to those who do not take part — — in the armed hostilities, put to serious question the terrorist labeling done by the Philippine government. To start with, the almost universal legal principle on the nature and object of rebellion as a political act militate against designating its actors as “terrorists”.
The peace talks enjoy wide support from various peoples organizations, civic groups, legal luminaries, peace advocates, religious formations, local government units as well as governments and solidarity groups abroad.
The terrorist designation of NDFP peace panel members such as Jose Maria Sison, Louie Jalandoni, and peace consultants, activists and other individuals is a violation of their basic universal right to due process. We believe that the designation leads to even more human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law. The indiscriminate terrorist designation of individuals, groups, and movements, along with the persistent practice of red-tagging, has led to surveillance, extrajudicial killings, abductions, and torture of activists. Under the government policy of fighting “terrorists”, we have activists in Manila, Cebu, Kalinga, Central Luzon, and Batangas who were abducted by state security forces because of alleged “terrorist activities”. We have human rights defenders, lawmakers, church people, artists, scientists, students, lawyers, critics, and dissenters, all unjustly labeled “terrorists” by State forces and threatened with reprisals.
We have peace consultants and revolutionaries summarily executed as in the case of poet Ericson Acosta, Manandro Villanueva, Jorge Madlos, and many others. We recall the killings of Chad Booc and his companions, who were also tagged as “terrorists” and who were killed in a fake encounter. Even the so-called localized peace talks have resulted in human rights violations such as the forced and fake surrender of civilians as members of the NPA.
We attribute the brutal treatment of these persons, including the elderly and sick, to the terrorist labeling done by State forces. From the above incidents, it now appears that the terrorist designation has given rise to a “Guantanamo mindset” where a labeled person is no longer entitled to basic rights as a human being.
We take the principled stand that those who struggle for justice, democracy, and liberation toward a just and lasting peace for the people should not be labeled terrorists as this merely results in the denial of the legitimacy of the reasons for what they are fighting for. The terrorist labeling seeks to negate the historical and social bases on why armed conflict exists, and what the possible long-term solutions should be. No government should turn a blind eye to the real causes of why people are compelled to take up arms for objectives beyond themselves. No government should give up on pursuing an honorable political solution to the ongoing armed conflict.
We call on the Philippine government to remove the terrorist designations and other stumbling blocks to peace and work to resume formal peace negotiations toward addressing the roots of the armed conflict. We call on peace advocates, civic groups, legal associations, and other sectors to oppose the arbitrary terrorist labeling of groups and individuals. We shall avail of all political and legal remedies to seek the delisting of individuals designated as “terrorists”, as we fight to defend their rights and the rights of the Filipino people against unjust political persecution. Let us all stand for just peace, and for freedom and democracy. ###
READ THE FULL STATEMENT WITH SIGNATORIES HERE: https://medium.com/paninindigan/remove-the-terrorist-designation-and-pursue-peace-negotiations-eb8ac126230f