Last week I wrote about President Duterte’s principal adviser on intelligence owning up before Congress that he had shared posts on social media from four spurious Facebook pages, without verifying the source and veracity of the information.
That admission, I stressed, put into question the credibility of intelligence input in government national policy-making. Recently Facebook had taken down the four FB pages, along with others linked to the military and police, due to their “coordinated inauthentic behavior” which violate its community standards. Per Facebook, such behavior includes misrepresenting oneself, using fake accounts and artificially boosting the popularity of the post’s content.
In a statement last Sunday, Alex Paul Monteagudo, director general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency or NICA, explained why he shared the posts: “It is because I find the posts inspiring, entertaining or informative.” He described the posts as “artistic expressions of our people similar to the sentiments of former rebels, indigenous people, victims and parents who have finally gained the courage to stand up and reveal the truth about members of the Communist Party of the Philippines who are now in Congress.”
Without providing proof, Monteagudo claimed that the six party-list representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives “are members of the (CPP-NPA) which has been declared as a terrorist group by the Philippine government…”
Because the Makabayan bloc raised pointed questions during the plenary deliberations on the proposed budgets of the NICA, the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the National Security Council, he claimed that they were undermining the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which President Duterte created in December 2018 with himself as chairman.
Not at all surprising, Monteagudo quickly got backing from one of the NTF-ELCAC spokesmen, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., currently AFP Southern Luzon Command chief. The latter, self-servingly, praised him as “the most credible person to declare what… a lot of us have been saying all along: that the Makabayan representatives are high-ranking members of the CPP-NPA-NDF.”
Gauging by how the NICA chief justified his parlaying fake news on social media – and proudly saying that he shared these with NICA personnel and field operatives – can anyone be faulted for raising a quizzical eyebrow over the credibility of the man and the agency he heads?
Going beyond Monteagudo’s unvalidated claim, Parlade made a more spurious accusation against the Makabayan bloc: “As CPP-NPA members,” he said, “they are responsible for everything that the terrorist NPAs have done…” And like the NICA chief, he didn’t care to provide evidence to such ridiculous accusation.
Parlade’s accusation is nothing new. He merely repeated, verbatim, the malicious accusation by the Gloria Arroyo government in 2006 against the six progressive party-list representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela in the House. I was one of them, then on my second three-year term representing Bayan Muna.
Yes, 14 years ago. Arroyo’s administrative-order creation, the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), accused the six of us of being “high-ranking members of the CPP-NPA responsible for all the violence and atrocities” allegedly committed by the NPA since its founding in 1969. IALAG filed a formal charge of rebellion in court against us, whom the media dubbed as the “Batasan 6.” While awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court on our petition for certiorari and prohibition (to junk the false charge), we had to stay in our Batasang Pambansa offices for 71 days under the House’s protection to avoid getting arrested. We attended regular legislative sessions and held almost daily press briefings.
The Supreme Court easily found the charge bereft of merit. It directed the lower court to dismiss the case, as it warned the justice secretary and state prosecutors against allowing themselves to be used by higher authorities for political purposes. Consequently, Arroyo abolished the IALAG.
Now, does Duterte’s NTF-ELCAC plan to file a similar spurious charge against the Makabayan bloc?
Parlade’s statement, as reported by the government-run Philppine News Agency, indicated he had in mind to charge the group using the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (RA 11479), certified as urgent and signed into law by Duterte and which took effect on July 18. He made the foolhardy claim that the Makabayan legislators, by their speeches, writings and banners, “attempt to incite or commit acts of terror” in violation of ATA’s Section 9. He also absurdly claimed that “they know they are guilty of Section 10 – recruitment to a terrorist organization.”
Should the NTF-ELCAC decide to pursue the filing of terrorism charges, it must seriously consider certain factors, such as the following:
• The constitutionality of the ATA – in part or in its entirety – is being questioned before the Supreme Court; the predominant pleadings are to strike down the new law and to provisionally stop its implementation. As of Oct. 2, 36 petitions filed by a broad range of organizations, groups and individuals have been officially docketed. The SC has decided to consolidate all the petitions into one case, and required the respondents to comment on both the petitions and the pleas for temporary restraining order. However, no date has been set yet for oral arguments.
(The petitions include those of former Supreme Court Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales, framers of the 1987 Constitution, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and various lawyers’ organizations, church leaders, the Makabayan bloc, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other cause-oriented groups.)
• Invoking Duterte’s Dec. 5, 2017 proclamation declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization would not help their case. It has no legal value or prosecutorial weight. This is because under the ATA only the Court of Appeals, after the prescribed judicial process is complied with, can declare as terrorist an organization or person recommended by the Anti-Terrorism Council.
• Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has raised an important caveat for those who persistently tag as “terrorists” the CPP-NPA and those they suspect as its members or supporters. He reviewed the provisions of the ATA, a Supreme Court ruling on the Human Security Act of 2007 (replaced by the ATA) and the legislative debates in the Senate before it was passed (the House adopted the Senate bill in toto). This is what he wrote on July 16:
“CPP-NPA rebels, whose intent is clearly rebellion, are not terrorists under the ATA, and consequently they, individually or as a group, cannot be proscribed as terrorists” under this Duterte law.
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Published in Philippine Star
Oct. 10, 2020