MANILA, Philippines — The designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army as terrorist groups does not address the cause of the long-running insurgency and poses a danger to legal groups, the Makabayan bloc of progressive party-lists said Monday.
Party-lists in the Makabayan bloc are among the activist groups that the government has accused of being in league with communist rebels, an allegation that the groups have rejected.
"With the [Anti-Terrorism Council]'s designation of the CPP-NPA as 'terrorists,' the Duterte administration now wields the Anti-Terrorism Law like a sword of Damocles over the broad array of organizations, institutions, and individuals red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict," the bloc, which includes representatives of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers and Kabataan, said.
"To be red-tagged is to be branded as a terrorist. This is exactly the agenda of the security sector: to weaponize the law to silence opposition and dissent," they also said.
"The designation of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group will do more harm than good. It practically closes the door to a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the armed conflict that addresses the social injustice at the root of armed conflict," they also said, adding a feared crackdown on dissent will not "solve the country's woes."
Designation by the ATC opens the doors for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze bank accounts allegedly linked to the CPP-NPA.
Lacson: Government should still accept surrenderees
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense committee, said in a separate statement that freezing the accounts will "tighten the noose on the financial and logistical needs of the CPP-NPA," which, he noted has been hit by a series of successful operations by government security personnel.
"That being said, the non-traditional left-hand/right-hand approach must still be applied by welcoming back to the fold their members, making sure that they will be treated justly and ensuring their personal safety — the same way the earlier surrenderees who appeared before our Senate red-tagging hearings a few weeks ago are being treated," he said.
He added that peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front are unlikely to resume since, citing information from the military and police, "peace talks are just part and parcel of [the CPP-NPA's] long-drawn strategy to consolidate their forces and stop the momentum gained by the security forces."
"While we should not give up on peace, we should learn from the experiences of the past. It is better to have localized peace efforts, with guidance and support from the national government," he said.
CPP: Anti-terror law can be used even against groups that are 'anti-CPP'
The CPP, also on Monday, said that the government's designation as a terrorist organization could affect even groups that have not been red-tagged.
"Even now, 'bank accounts of the CPP and NPA' have been ordered frozen by the government, which will have implication not against the CPP (which does not maintain bank accounts) vut against various organizations who have been accused of 'funneling funds to the NPA' (again without proof)," Marco Valbuena, CPP information officer, said.
Valbuena said the freeze order will likely affect party-list groups, political parties, religious and human rights groups, unions, NGOs and community schools.
He said the designation should be opposed by "all democratic forces, even those who may consider themselves CPP-ambivalent or even anti-CPP or anti-NPA because of the far-reaching harm it may cause against their legal and political rights."
Aside from activist groups and transport sector organizations, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed in 2018 that the CPP was working with the right-wing Magdalo group and other members of the political opposition.
State-run PNA quotes Duterte as saying the CPP and Magdalo "have combined and we have the evidence and we have the conversation provided by a foreign country sympathetic to us."
In 2017, the administration also accused the minority Liberal Party of working with the CPP.
"Before, it was the Yellows. Then they changed the color to white, and now there are also reds coming in, and members of the clergy are also joining the fray," Solicitor General Jose Calida said then. — Jonathan de Santos
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