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Petition amendment proves terrorist proscription vs CPP-NPA arbitrary–lawyer

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s amendment to its petition to proscribe revolutionary groups as terrorists is proof that it has a weak case against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), a human rights lawyer said.

In a statement, National Union of People’s Lawyer president Edre Olalia said the government’s original petition filed in February 2018 is weak and is merely a move to railroad the legal process.

“[The] amended petition by the government to proscribe the CPP-NPA is proof that the original one was sloppy, shotgun and arbitrary against hundreds of individuals and was designed to harass and threaten them,” Olalia said.

Last January 3, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the amended petition before Branch 19 of the Regional Trial Court in Manila.

Six hundred individuals listed as “terrorists” in the original petition have been taken off  but retained CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison; NPA national operations command spokesperson Jorge Madlos; NPA’s Melito Glor Command spokesperson Jaime Padilla, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Negros spokesperson Francisco Fernandez; alleged CPP-Visayas deputy secretary Cleofe Lagtapon; alleged CPP Mindanao Commission secretary Antonio Cabanatan; alleged NPA-Mindanao leader; and alleged NPA-Mindanao operations chief Myrna Sularte.

The amended petition no longer includes United Nations Environment Programme 2018 Champion of the Earth awardee Joan Carling and five Baguio activists like Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding.

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 labelled as terrorists, but said government spying on non-government organizations remains as a threat to free speech and human rights.

“This is a partial victory, but we cannot let our guard down,” Cawiding said.

She points to the latest 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 Malacañang are justifying their witch hunt in the context of [Duterte’s] Executive Order 70,” Cawiding said.

EO 70, 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.

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.

Current CPA chair Windell 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 and NPA as terrorists by focusing on few names. Once they are proscribed as terrorists, people they suspect, vilify and attack as fronts and supporters will be linked and later considered terrorists. This is the danger,” Bolinget said.

Still dangerous

Olalia said that even with the amendment, the petition remains dangerous to those earlier named.

“[The] present petition remains to be without legal and factual basis and repackaged the old one in order to railroad the legal process. This will in turn violate a slew of individual and collective rights not only for those who remain in the list but many others who are maliciously identified, associated, suspected or labelled,” Olalia said.

IFI Bishop Vermilon Tagalog, chair of the regional coordinating committee of the Ilocos Network for the Environment 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.

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.” #(Raymund B. Villanueva/ Kodao and Kimberlie Olmaya Ngabit-Quitasol/Northern Dispatch)

DOJ dismisses complaint vs Catanduanes gov over 1st media killing under Duterte

By Lottie Salarda

“We were not surprised anymore,” Catanduanes journalist Marlon Suplig said after learning that the Department of Justice in Manila dismissed the murder complaint against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua and others over the murder of Catanduanes Now Publisher Larry Que in 2016.

What surprised them was the failure of the DOJ to notify them almost a year after its resolution, Suplig said.

Contrary to the Rules on Criminal Procedure requiring only probable cause for a case to be filed, Assistant State Prosecutor Alejandro Daguiso in a resolution dated October 30, 2017, said there is insufficiency of evidence presented by the complainants and it will be unfair to hold the respondents for trial.

Que was killed after writing a column alleging the negligence of the local officials over the discovery of a major shabu laboratory in the province.

He was the first vitim of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The victim was shot by a motorcycle men-riding in tandem at around 9:30 in the morning near his workplace in Virac, Catanduanes.

On May 2, 2017, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s common-law wife filed a murder case against Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s right-hand Prince Lim Subion and other “John Does”.

Gov. Cua (right, in gray shirt) announces his candidacy for governorship in the 2019 local elections. (Photo by Radyo Natin-Virac, used with permission)

After his arrest last year, Tacorda admitted he was instructed to kill Que under the guise of “Operation Tokhang” by Cua through his right-hand man Subion.

Que received death threats from Lim Subion prior to the incident.

According to Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Egco, Tacorda faced a robbery and extortion charges because he allegedly asked the family for 10 million pesos in exchange for evidence of Que’s death.

The extortion case filed against Tacorda was likewise dismissed. He denied all his extrajudicial confessions in his affidavit.

The complainants said they did not receive a copy of the resolution.

Suplig said they did not know that their complaint was already dismissed almost a year ago as they were not given copies.

It was Cua’s camp who announced the dismissal nearly two months before the filing of certificates of candidacies for the 2019 local and national polls.

The incumbent governor is planning to run for the same post next year. #

Satur’s lawyers seek his dismissal from DOJ list

Lawyers have asked the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 to dismiss the petition against former Representative Saturnino “Satur” Ocampo in connection with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to have the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) proscribed as terrorist organizations.

In a notice of special apperance filed Wednesday, March 20, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the respondent in the DOJ petition were the CPP and the NPA and not Ocampo.

“Obviously, there is a material discrepancy between the statements in the summons and the allegations in the petition,” the PILC motion said.

“The summons indubitably designated movant Ocampo as a party respondent, in the stead of the actual respondents, the CPP and the NPA,” it added.

Ocampo was among hundreds listed in the DOJ petition as “known officers” of the CPP and the NPA the Rodrigo Duterte government wanted proscribed as terrorist organizations.

The PILC however denied Ocampo is a party to the instant [DOJ] proceeding.

“The Honorable Court cannot indulge on the drastically erroneous premise that movant is a respondent, as there is no basis whatsoever to implead him,” the PILC said.

The lawyers said Ocampo vehemently denies he is an officer, a member or even a representative the CPP and the NPA and therefore has no legal, vested, material interest insofar as the petition for proscription of the CPP and NPA is concerned.

In the PILC motion’s prefatory statement, Ocampo said, “I am Saturnino Ocampo. Journalist. I am NOT a terrorist.”

PILC said Ocampo cannot be made party to the instant proceeding against the CPP and the NPA that are entities with personalities separate from his.

“[N]othing in the [DOJ] petition and its annexes indicate that movant Saturnino Ocampo is indeed an officer, member or representative of the CPP and NPA,” PILC said.

The PILC said annexes to the DOJ petition naming Ocampo as one of the members of the CPP Central Committee were all issued in 2006 and has also failed to prove he still remains as member or officer of the CPP and the NPA.

Ocampo served as Bayan Muna Representative in the 12th to 14th Congress in 2001 to 2010. He currently serves as the chairperson of the Makabayan Coalition that has seven representatives in the 17th Congress.

Ocampo’s lawyers have also denied he has committed any terrorist act.

“It is respectfully prayed of the Honorable Court that the instant Petition BE DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction over the person of movant Saturnino Ocampo and for failure of the petition to state a cause of action against him,” PILC said.

The PILC motion is the first to be filed against the DOJ petition to have the CPP and the NPA proscribed as terrorist organizations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)