The Duterte administration intends to use, for the first time, the anti-terror law of the Philippines, the Human Security Act.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has been “unwilling to talk peace” but appeared willing to follow the terror listing of the US. Along with this line, he is threatening not just the intensification of war against the revolutionary underground but also the filing of cases and use of the Human Security Act against the legal, democratic and unarmed organizations. President Duterte has accused some of them as “legal fronts” of the CPP or Communist Party of the Philippines.
In a press briefing in Malacañang today, Roque said the president is likely to file charges against the alleged “legal front” organizations of the CPP. Although President Duterte has so far been reported to have named the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) as among these groups, Roque refused to identify which of the alleged “legal fronts” will be slapped with charges. He expected that the president “will be guided by the security and intelligence agencies of the government” in the witch hunting.
“Duterte will be advised on which of these groups will be charged with conspiracy. The security forces will advise the president and the DOJ prosecutors will act accordingly,” Roque announced.
Asked how the government will establish this “conspiracy,” Roque replied that the lawyers will take care of it. “In a conspiracy, there must be an agreement for a common purpose and a common design and overt task to reach that common purpose,” he explained.
He also said the president does not need another law to do this as it “is within the power of the executive to characterize who are threats to national security.” But Roque qualified that the criminal prosecution will have to follow the existing law.
In a National Conference to End Impunity held a day before, November 22, human rights defenders reported a number of trumped-up charges filed against legal, democratic activists and critics, including those merely providing social services to the underserved such as the Lumad in Mindanao and the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera. The human rights defenders underscored that, while these charges are routinely being proven false, both the labeling and the succeeding harassment and surveillance including the arrests have been impeding the delivery of their services as well as their campaigns.
In Malacañang today, when the presidential spokesperson was asked, ‘What have the legal organizations done that could merit the filing of charges of conspiracy?’ Roque only replied “conspiracy.”
The details he followed it with involved NPA actions against soldiers conducting operations. Roque recalled Duterte’s “frustrations” about the NPA “attacking our soldiers and civilians” while they were holding peace negotiations.
In a separate media interview though, the peace panel chair of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Fidel Agcaoili said they have no standing ceasefire with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. As such, he said, their armed groups cannot be expected to stand by while the Armed Forces of the Philippines is bombing communities and sowing terror among civilians it suspected of supporting the rebels.
“If they had remained in their barracks then they would not have been attacked as combatants,” Agcaoili said of the government troops. Agcaoili reiterated their group’s openness to holding peace talks with an administration willing to talk peace. He expressed hopes the recent presidential pronouncements are “just outbursts.”
He also explained that they are not terrorists. “The NPA is engaged with combatants, not civilians,” Agcaoili said. He added that Duterte has the prerogative to make any declaration against the CPP, “but Duterte must understand that it will have an effect on the continuity of the peace negotiations.”
“The NDF is willing to talk peace, but there must be no backtracking on promises made,” Agcaoili said.
President Duterte has issued hawkish statements against the CPP leadership since February, as well as announced that he will no longer talk peace with them. But these announcements had never been followed up by a formal proclamation or notice or termination of peace talks. So, asked this time if the announced “unwillingness to talk peace” is now final, Malacanang spokesman Harry Roque can only say, it is “final for now.”
A new threat that entered President Duterte’s menu of threats against these groups is his announced intent to use the Human Security Act in filing cases against them. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the Duterte administration intended to use the Human Security Act (HSA), which the government did not use against the Isis-inspired Maute group or against other rebel groups in Mindanao.