WATCH | DOJ asks courts to formally declare Reds as terrorists, cancel provisional liberty for leaders in peace talks

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Benito Wilma Tiamzon
Benito Tiamzon, with his wife, Wilma, shortly after they were granted provisional liberty to join the peace talks. FILE PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN, PHIL. STAR

MANILA – On the heels of President Duterte’s tagging of the communist party and the New People’s Army as “terrorists”, the Department of Justice took twin moves to have the courts formally declare them as such, and cancel the provisional liberty of their leaders who were released to join the now-scuttled peace talks with government.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Thursday directed the Office of the Prosecutor General to immediately file the proper petition with a lower court for the purpose of formalizing the terrorist declaration, amid earlier concerns from legal circles that President Duterte cannot simple tag them terrorists overnight.

To carry out the President’s wish to brand the communist rebels as “terrorists” and cancel peace talks, Aguirre had issued Department Order No. 779 right after Duterte issued his proclamation on Tuesday.

Aguirre also directed the Prosecutor General to coordinate with relevant agencies for the implementation of the department order.

The basis for declaring the communist party and its armed wing “terrorists” is the Human Security Act, which Sen. Francis Escudero said Thursday should be strictly followed by the government, as he warned against getting innocent parties caught in the middle of any reckless implementation of the President’s orders.

BACK TO DETENTION

Meanwhile,DOH has filed a motion for recommitment and cancellation of bail against the communist leaders and consultants, who were earlier given provisional liberty so they can join the peace negotiations in the Philippines and in Norway.

Among them are the husband-wife team of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, as well as Adelberto Silva, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad.

In its motion with the Manila Regional Trial Court, the DOJ pointed out there is no longer any legal ground for the provisional liberty of these people, since Duterte has cancelled the peace talks.

The DOJ sought cancellation of the communist leaders’ bail so they can be recommitted to prison.

Human rights lawyers, however, had earlier cried foul over the Duterte administration’s fast-tracking of the cancellation of the talks and the bail, saying there is a process to be followed, as set by law.

PANELO: NO MORE REASON TO KEEP THEM FREE
Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo disputed the lawyers’ cautionary remarks, telling Radyo 5’s Punto Asintado there remains no reason for letting the communist leaders roam free.

In a phone patch interview, Panelo said: “Eh unang-una, dati namang may mga kaso iyong mga iyan, eh. Kaya lang sila na-release sapagkat humingi tayo ng permiso sa hukuman na makalabas muna sila pansamantala. So since wala nang usapan, then the reason for their release is being terminated. Wala nang reason para hindi sila bumalik sa kulungan.”

[First of all, those people had prior pending cases. They were released only because we asked the court for their temporary freedom. But since there are no more peace talks, the reason of their release is gone. There’s no longer any reason not to return them to jail].

It’s still the courts, he said, which will issue the arrest warrants, but it would be better if those concerned simply yield to authorities.

“If I were them, (unclear) mag surrender na lang, para wala nang problema,” Panelo said.

Asked by Punto Asintado host, News5 reporter Maricel Halili, what exactly the terrorist declaration on the NPA means, and whether being a mere member of the group was enough basis for an arrest, Panelo said: “Siyempre, they are still entitled to due process. Kailangan pa rin silang idemanda o puwedeng magkaroon ng (unclear) unless they’re caught during the commission of a crime. Ibig sabihin hindi ko kailangan mandamyento de aresto [They still need to be charged for a crime, unless they’re caught during the commission of the crime, at which point no arrest warrant is necessary].”

Panelo elaborated: “Ang mahalaga lang diyan, hindi na sila basta-basta makaka . . . hindi na sila iyong ordinaryong mamamayan na merong karapatan na they can go anywhere they want [What is important there is that they can no longer just roam freely with the same rights as ordinary citizens]. Kasi, since they have been declared as terrorist, necessarily by self instinct of preservation they will be carrying a gun, di ba [right]? Kaya may problema sila diyan. May problema sila kung ayaw nilang magpa-aresto, siyempre gagamit sila ng armas. Di ba sabi ni Presidente, since declared kang terrorist at siguradong papatayin mo iyong mga mag-aaresto sa iyo eh uunahan ka kung meron kang armas.

[They have a problem there because, if they don’t want to be arrested, they’d logically bear arms. And didn’t the President say that if you’re declared a terrorist and you’re certainly expected to kill the ones who’ll try to arrest you, then they – the government – would certainly beat you to it, if you’re bearing arms?]

UPHOLD STRINGENT MEASURES OF HSA AMID NPA TAG – CHIZ

Relatedly, Senator Chiz Escudero has reminded the police and the military to strictly observe the provisions of the Human Security Act (HSA) in the conduct of their operation after the government officially declared the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations.

Escudero, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said President Duterte’s declaration removes the possibility of peace talks. “And given the government policy, we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Republic Act 9372 or the HSA defines terrorism, as well as provides for the procedure should the government seek to tag a group as terrorist. It creates an anti-terrorism council and grievance committee to implement the law and see any violations of the law, respectively.

“I hope this terror tag on CPP-NDF is just a hiccup or a negotiating tactic in the peace process. I am still optimistic that peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA will soon resume and prosper under cooler situation,” he said.

The senator said with the terror tag on the CPP-NPA, the military and the police should adhere to the measures and procedures provided under the HSA, especially on the matter of safeguards to protect human rights against abuse by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Any offense committed under HSA necessitates stronger evidentiary requirements. You can’t just file murder, illegal possession of firearms or any non-bailable offense. Government has to follow and adhere to the stringent requirements provided by the law, and these requirements carry corresponding penalties against violators,” Escudero said.

“Ang nakakalungkot dito, marami na namang maiipit na iba’t ibang lugar sa bansa at mga sibilyan dahil sa umpugan ng NPA at ng gobyerno. At magpapatuloy pa rin ang patayan ng Pilipino at kapwa Pilipino [The sad thing here is that many people are bound to be caught again in the crossfire between the government and the NPA. and Filipinos will kill fellow Filipinos],” he said.

“I believe that peace negotiation should be exhausted to bring the armed conflict to a permanent and just closure,” Escudero added.

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