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)