When peace dialogues should be ongoing, Marcos gov’t pronounces revolutionary groups as ‘terrorists’

The Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government maintains its designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as so-called terrorist organizations and declared two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants as alleged terrorist individuals.

On separate resolutions passed around the time when Malacañan Palace announced efforts to resume formal peace negotiations with the NDFP, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) said that based on evidence gathered by law enforcement agencies, the basis for the designation on the CPP and NPA still exists.

ATC Resolution 54–approved last December 6 but only uploaded only last Wednesday to the Manila government’s Official Gazette website–alleges that both the CPP and the NPA committed 268 “atrocities” from December 2020 to August 2023.

The ATC first designated the CPP and the NPA as “terrorist organizations” in its Resolution No. 17 passed in 2021.

ATC Resolution 53, also approved last December 6 but only uploaded last April 17, designated NDFP peace consultant Elizabeth Principe as a so-called terrorist individual.

Earlier ATC Resolution 52, approved last October 25 but only uploaded to the Official Gazette last January 9, also declared Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala as a so-called terrorist individual.

The ATC alleges that both Principe and Araneta-Bocala are CPP Central Committee members and are thus qualified for the designation.

Resolution 53 also alleges the elderly Principe has participated in NPA attacks in Cagayan Valley as late as March 2023, such as in the burning of heavy mining and dam construction equipment in Isabela Province.

Principe has attended a formal round of peace negotiations between the Benigno Aquino Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP in Oslo, Norway January 2011 while Araneta-Bocala has repeatedly attended formal peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte administration throughout Europe from 2016 to 2017.

Both peace consultants are GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees documents of identification holders and included in a reconstituted list of protected peace talks personnel submitted to the Old Catholic Church Patriarch in The Netherlands in 2017.

The GRP already included Araneta-Bocala in an earlier list of so-called terrorists under the Human Security Act of 2007.

The ATC resolutions were signed by Marcos’ executive secretary, Atty. Lucas Bersamin, as chairperson of the ATC as well as other council officials.

The council was created by the passage of Republic Act 11479, otherwise known as the Anti-Terror Act of 2020.

‘Talking to terrorists?’

ATC’s approval of its resolutions 53 and 54 came mere days after both GRP, NDFP and Royal Norwegian Government, Third Party Facilitator to the peace process, simultaneously announced that dialogues between the parties have resumed to try to revive the stalled formal talks last November 28.

ATC’s uploading of both resolutions to the Official Gazette also came at a time when further dialogues between both parties were expected.

The parties’ simultaneous press conferences last November 28 said that further dialogues may be expected in the first quarter of the current year.

The CPP, NPA and NDFP dispute the designation and were affirmed by a September 2022 Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) decision junking their attempted proscription by the GRP as “terrorists”.

In a 135-page resolution penned by Presiding Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, the Manila RTC said a perusal of the CPP-NPA’s program shows that it is organized not for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.

NDFP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Julie de Lima earlier told Kodao that the retraction of the terrorist designation of the revolutionary groups shall be among the issues to be discussed in further dialogues with the GRP as part of efforts to resume formal peace negotiations.

“They can’t be negotiating with parties they allege to be terrorists, can they?” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)  

NDFP consultant, 3 others arrested in ‘another wave of arbitrary arrests’

6 others ordered arrested; Gov’t designates community doctor a ‘terrorist’

A retired National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel peace consultant was arrested in what a human rights group said is another wave of arbitrary arrests and trumped up charges that involve 10 other activists.

Ruben Saluta, a participant in several formal rounds of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in 2016 and 2017, was reported arrested in General Santos City last Sunday night.

He was arrested with his wife Presentacion and their companion Yvonee Losaria at Phase 5, Doña Soledad, Barangay Labangal in the said city.

A Manila Bulletin news report said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (CIDG-PNP) arrested the three on the strength of a warrant of arrest for rebellion.

Earlier arrested in March 2015 on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Saluta was released from prison by the Rodrigo Duterte government in October 2016 to enable his participation in the peace negotiations.

In June 2018, Saluta was cleared by the court after finding “serious doubt in the prosecution evidence and in their chain of custody” of the seized firearms.

Saluta has since retired from his post after the GRP walked away from the negotiations in November 2017.

In a separate statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines confirmed that Saluta has long retired from active duty in the revolutionary underground because of his hypertension and chronic pulmonary disease.

“The Party denounces the gross inhumane treatment of the elderly revolutionaries who have lived lives in service of the oppressed and exploited masses,” the CPP added.

Human rights group Karapatan said the guns alleged to have been found with Saluta were planted, adding the elderly former peace negotiator and his wife are suffering from various illnesses.

“Previous charges against Saluta couple have been long dismissed, and it is highly possible that the evidence taken during their arrest were planted, just like in the past case against them,” Karapatan said.

‘No due process’

On Monday, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) staff Jennifer Awingan was arrested on charges of rebellion despite not having received any subpoena.

Also reportedly included in the arrest order are CPA Chairperson Windell Bolinget, Regional Council member and abduction-torture survivor Steve Tauli, Northern Dispatch journalist Niño Oconer, farmer leader Lourdes Jimenez, and development workers Sarah Abelton and Florence Kang.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Cordillera activist mauled and abducted

“[The respondents] were unable to be afforded their right to due process during the inquest proceedings,” Karapatan said.

“Karapatan denounces these recent arrests and trumped up charges as part of the renewed attacks against activists and political dissenters through criminalization of their work. We demand the immediate release of Awingan, the Saluta couple and Losaria, as we call for the junking of the charges against them,” the group added.

No respite for community doctor

Meanwhile, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) on Monday designated community doctor and University of the Philippines alumna Natividad Castro as a terrorist, a move both Karapatan and the group Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) said was arbitrary.

The ATC alleged that Castro remains active in financing revolutionary communist groups and has conducted medical trainings for New People’s Army guerillas.

In a statement, the HAHR questioned the lack of a hearing or even a prior to the designation.

“Dr. Naty had no chance to rebut or even learn of the basis of the designation prior to its publication. She has been condemned as a terrorist by the ATC even before her side was heard. How can she even contest the designation when she has not even informed of the basis of such designation?” the group said.

Castro was arrested at their home in San Juan City last February 18 in a commando-style raid also by the CIDG-PNP. Branch 7 of the Bayugan City RTC in a March 25 resolution ordered her release from the Agusan del Sur provincial jail after finding no probable cause against her.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Rights group hails Doc Naty’s release

An acknowledged champion of community-based health programs, Castro’s designation as an alleged terrorist puts at risk the lives of thousands of other community health workers and health professionals all over the country, the HAHR said.

“The ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act) and ATC (have) no place in a democratic society. The latest designation by the ATC is nothing more than a with-hunt to silence government critics,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma, peace advocates: ATC move vs. NDFP ‘diabolical’, to worsen armed conflict

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison described their group’s designation as “terrorist” by the Rodrigo Duterte government as “diabolical”, aimed at not just further closing every possibility of resuming peace negotiations but to kill more of their consultants and resource persons.

READ: GRP designates NDFP as ‘terrorist organization’

Reacting to the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) June 23 resolution designating the NDFP as a terrorist organization, Sison said the government clearly intends to:

  • Close further every possibility of resuming the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at least for the duration that Duterte is in power,
  • Harass, silence, arrest or even kill the NDFP consultants and resource persons and others involved in the peace negotiations and target even the broad range of peace advocates, critics and oppositionists,
  • Allow Duterte to control and rig the 2022 elections, stay in power together with (Davao City Mayor) Sara and prevent his (Duterte’s) arrest for crimes against humanity on the prospective warrant that may be issued by the International Criminal Court, and
  • Pave a wider path for the Duterte regime to declare martial law and impose a fascist dictatorship on the people either before the anticipated 2022 elections or after this is rigged in order to preempt the 1986 type of people’s uprising.

“The diabolical purpose of the Duterte regime in designating the NDFP as terrorist cannot be understated because this has been preceded by the murder of NDFP consultants committed so flagrantly by Duterte death squads,” Sison said.

In its Resolution No. 21 (2021) issued last June 23, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) designated the NDFP as a terrorist organization/association, saying the group is “an integral and inseparable part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).”

Sison cited the murder of Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis, couple Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, couple Antonio Cabanatan and Florenda Yap, Reynaldo Bocala and Rustico Tan as proof the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is into killing NDFP consultants.

The victims were killed after Duterte ordered the GRP Negotiating Panel to walk away from the peace negotiations in mid-2017.

Sison also cited the arrest of NDFP consultants Adelberto Silva, Rey Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, Renante Gamara, Ferdinand Castillo  and others who have been arrested and imprisoned on so-called trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

He added that the designation is “at war” with basic principles of international humanitarian law on the legitimate status, rights and character of national liberation movements such as those by the NDFP.

‘War hawks to blame’

A group of peace advocates blames so-called war hawks in the ATC for NDFP’s designation as terrorist.

The group Pilgrims for Peace (PfP) said GRP’s move bodes ill for human rights, democracy and the quest for peace under the Duterte administration.

“The war hawks are hell-bent on killing peace negotiations and instead pursuing all-out war in the government counterinsurgency program as well as casting a wide net of suppression against all opposition and dissent through state terror as embodied in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” the group in a statement said.

PfP said the designation can only intensify the “nefarious red-baiting/ terrorist-tagging by the National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict, with dire implications on and further deterioration of the human rights situation and constriction of democratic space in the country.”

The group added the designation directly contravenes a basic tenet of peace advocacy: addressing the roots of the armed conflict through earnest peace negotiations.

“[B]y designating those who have stepped forward to engage in peace negotiations as ‘terrorist,’ the Duterte administration is blatantly acting against the principle and practice of peace building,” PfP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP designates NDFP as ‘terrorist organization’

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has added the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to its list of terrorist organizations, dashing what remains of hopes for the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the parties.

In its Resolution No. 21 (2021) issued last June 23, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has designated the NDFP as a terrorist organization/association, saying the group is “an integral and inseparable part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).”

The designation was signed by ATC chairperson and executive secretary Salvador Medialdea and council vice-chairperson and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

“[The] NDFP is organized, controlled, acting on behalf of or at the direction of, and operated by the (CPP), a designated terrorist organization, association and/or group of persons under ATC Resolution No. 12 (2020),” the ATC said.

The Council said the NDFP is the last of three major components, along with the CPP and the NPA, that provides support to the armed and organizational expansion of the Communist movement in the country.

Founded in April 1973, the NDFP describes itself as “[A] revolutionary united front organization of the Filipino people fighting for national freedom and for the democratic rights of the people.

“The NDFP seeks to develop and coordinate all progressive classes, sectors and forces in the Filipino people’s struggle to end the rule of US imperialism and its local allies of big landlords and compradors, and attain national and social liberation,” its website says.

Aside from the CPP and the NPA, the NDFP has at least 15 other “revolutionary allied organizations” and is present in 70 out of the country’s 81 provinces.

Since 1992, the NDFP has been holding peace talks with the GRP to “address the roots of the armed conflict.”

After two years of fruitful negotiations across four formal rounds in three countries in Europe from 2016 to 2017, President Duterte walked away from the process and has since designated the CPP and NPA as so-called terrorists.

Observers said NDFP’s exclusion from GRP’s list of terrorist organizations provides hope that it is still open to resuming negotiations with the underground group.

NDFP officials have yet to respond to requests for comment on this development. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AMLC freezes NDFP consultant’s bank account; immoral and reprehensible order, wife says

Funds consist solely of reparations received by Ladlad for human rights violations he suffered under martial law, Fides Lim reveals.

The wife of a jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant assailed the freezing of his bank accounts containing compensations for human rights violations suffered during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law years.

Fides Lim questioned the morality of the freeze order and appealed to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Benjamin Diokno to reverse the directive against NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad’s bank accounts with the government-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

Ladlad’s two accounts, an ATM Visa Debit Card and the attached savings deposit, were ordered frozen following his designation as a “terrorist” on May 13 by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

Ladlad is among the several detained peace consultants of the National Democratic Front ordered arrested after peace negotiations were aborted by President Duterte in 2017.

In a May 31 letter to Diokno, concurrent chairperson of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Lim expressed distress over the freezing of Ladlad’s LBP account, calling it immoral and illegal.

“[T]hat consist solely and purely of the compensation that Vic received from the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) in May 2018 plus the compensation from Atty. Robert Swift in August 2019 from human rights class suits in reparation for Vic’s political imprisonment and torture during martial law and for the abduction and enforced disappearance of his first wife Leticia Pascual Ladlad in November 1975,” Lim said.

She said the two Land Bank accounts were opened in May 2018 when the HRVCB required approved eligible claimants to open a savings account at their nearest Land Bank branch to facilitate the deposit of the monetary compensation.

“Any investigation would easily reveal the official origin of those deposits and why it is wrongful, in fact immoral and reprehensible, to subject them to any freeze order as this would only perpetuate the injustice and tragedy that those accounts seek to atone for and indemnify,” she explained.

“Clearly, the funds are not from money laundering or terrorism financing but resulted from Republic Act No. 10368, otherwise known as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which established the HVRCB to decide on all claims,” Lim said in her letter, adding that authorities can see that the accounts were never used to launder funds for any illegal activity.

She noted that any investigation would also reveal that the reparation was in fact “misused” when Ladlad was arrested on November 8, 2018 and illegal transactions ensued after his LBP ATM Visa Debit Card was taken from him:

“I knew of this immediately due to an LBP alert text on my cellphone suspending the card ’as preventive measure against unauthorized transaction/s.’ I promptly filed a complaint with the LBP and despite initial rejection, the stolen amount was restituted on February 5, 2020 through a full refund,” she revealed

Although the account was compromised and despite lawyers’ advice about asset freeze under the new Anti-Terrorism Act, she said Ladlad decided to keep his LBP accounts because “these were opened purposely to facilitate the payment of compensation to him as a victim of martial law and because, should anything happen to me, he would need to shoulder his medical needs and health care.”

Lim said she went to see Diokno at the BSP last May 31 but was denied entry due to COVID protocols.

“I hope Prof. Diokno will have the fairness of mind to heed my appeal as he belongs to the same generation that experienced the brutal repression of martial law and he can’t ignore the sacrifices recognized by the very law that created this indemnification fund,” Lim said.

“Vic is now 72, and he needs his compensation funds as his heath rapidly deteriorates under political imprisonment,” Lim stressed.

She said Ladlad was diagnosed last December 2020 with Asthma-Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Overlap Syndrome, which has a higher disease burden than either asthma or COPD alone, marked by frequent exacerbations and higher mortality rate.

This latest government action of freezing his legal compensation is a gross injustice that compounds the dark history of martial law and victimizes the victim anew with greater suffering. The lifting of the AMLC’s freeze order on his compensation accounts with the LBP will rectify this injustice and assure humanitarian support for his pressing medical needs,” Lim said.

Ladlad had repeatedly denied being a terrorist and said his imprisonment is “plain political persecution” based on “trumped-up charges” involving planted firearms.

Diokno has yet to respond to Lim’s appeal. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging’

“The designation is arbitrary, has no clear standards, with no evidence presented and no specific terrorist acts cited. It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging, that violates the rights of those designated. Those listed will also suffer the freezing of their bank accounts, a direct injury. All of this was done without due process.” — Renato Reyes, Secretary-General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan