Malacañang on Thursday assured the public that they have nothing to fear after the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) identified 19 alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), as well as 10 alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as “terrorists.”
Citing the Bill of Rights, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque allayed fears that anyone critical of the government can just be identified as terrorists without evidence and due process.
“The fundamental rights, freedom of speech and freedom of liberty include what we call the due process clause, ‘No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law’,” Roque said in a press briefing in Filipino.
Roque previously said if arrests of persons critical of the government would infringe the minimum standards set by the Bill of Rights, it will be declared unconstitutional by the courts.
In a public address on July 7, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte said law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear about the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 or Republic Act (RA) 11479 because the law only targets terrorists, especially those who carry out bomb attacks in public.
“Don’t be afraid if you’re not a terrorist, if you don’t destroy the government, blow up churches or public utilities just to see the nation fall,” he said in Filipino.
Based on UNSC resolutions
Roque reiterated that the ATC’s role in identifying terrorists is done in accordance with resolutions issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
“It’s not only the Philippines making definitions for terrorism. Those who instill fear and terror in the minds of the public through violent means is a terrorist,” he said partly in Filipino.
He said it is no secret who local terrorists are, since they are identified by their intent to cause death and destruction.
“When it comes to local terrorists, we know who they are because even if we are in a democracy, even if we have a party-list system, they still continue to use weapons to achieve their goals,” he said.
Roque welcomed the list of designated terrorists as it would authorize the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze the property or funds that are in any way related to the financing of terrorism.
“That is important because if they don’t have funds, they can no longer continue their terroristic acts among others,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque said he has yet to get Duterte’s comment on the ATC’s list of designated terrorists but vowed to ask him during their next meeting.
RA 11479 defines terrorists as persons who engage in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person or endangers a person’s life; cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public pace or private property; and cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure.
It also defines terrorists are those who develop, manufacture, possess, acquire, transport, supply, or use weapons, explosives or biological, nuclear, radiological, or chemical weapons and release dangerous substances causing fire, floods, or explosions.
Signed by Executive Secretary ATC Chairperson Salvador Medialdea and ATC Vice Chairperson Hermogenes Esperon on April 20, ATC Resolution No. 17 identifies “central committee members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army also known as Bagong Hukbong Bayan (CPP/NPA), which was designated under Anti-Terrorism Council Resolution No. 12 (2020), as terrorists.”
CPP founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison topped the list of terrorists that also include his wife Julieta; National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad; and 13 other alleged members of CPP’s central committee.
Under Resolution No. 16 also issued April 20, the ATC also designated as “terrorists” 10 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and other militant organizations linked to the Islamic State group. Among them are Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan, alleged mastermind in the deadly August 2020 twin bombings in Jolo, Sulu, and Esmael Abdulmalik, also known as Commander Toraifie.