Widespread crackdown vs administration critics feared
MANILA, Philippines — Progressive lawmakers in the Makabayan bloc on Tuesday warned that the designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups would lead to a “widespread crackdown” against critics of the administration.
“This will result in the widespread crackdown against activists, the opposition and other dissenters. This will also kill the dream of the public to have a lasting peace,” ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said in an online press briefing.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas backed Castro’s claim that the designation of the CPP-NPA as terrorists was a “setback” for a possible resumption of peace talks.
“More importantly, we need to be wary of the effect of the antiterror council’s designation [of the CPP-NPA] to human rights defenders who are accused as communists and killed for being Red-tagged by the government,” Brosas said at the same press briefing.
According to Brosas, the designation would “pose as a threat to many Filipinos, including human right defenders, relief workers and ordinary citizens who voiced their criticisms and frustration at the government’s failed COVID response.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said President Rodrigo Duterte made a “180-degree turn” with his decision to cancel peace negotiations with the communist rebels.
Duterte formally terminated the peace talks with the communist rebels through Proclamation No. 360, in November 2017. A year later, the President created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) to resolve the armed conflict with the communist guerillas.
“Now, he has totally shut the door [on peace talks],” Gaite said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the designation of the CPP-NPA as terrorists “is contrary to our pursuit of just and lasting peace in our country.”
The Makabayan bloc warned that the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) recent branding of the CPP and NPA as terrorists sets a “dangerous precedent” that will “do more harm than good.”
“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,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
The militant lawmakers issued the joint statement days after the ATC, in two separate resolutions, approved the designation of several groups as terrorist organizations.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council has also ordered the freezing of assets that may have links to the CPP and NPA as well as Islamic State-linked terrorist groups.
The lawmakers have been the subject of Red-tagging by officials of the NTF-Elcac, which they sought but failed to defund in the 2021 national budget.
In their joint statement, the Makabayan bloc said that 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 NTF-Elcac.”
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