Some senators back Duterte plan to tag NPA a terror group
Several senators on Monday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to classify the New People’s Army (NPA) as a terrorist group, saying it was his prerogative and that the communist rebels had lost their ideology and morphed into plain bandits over time.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson agreed that it was about time the rebel group was labeled a terror organization as it had been acting like one since losing its ideology more than a decade ago.
“They burn, destroy, kill innocent civilians to terrorize; they terrorize to sow fear and harass helpless civilians; they harass to extort under the guise of revolutionary taxation,” said Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, in a text message.
“And knowing President Duterte, our security forces will surely respond to finally put an end to an almost half-century problem that [has] morphed from ideology to plain banditry perpetrated by self-styled ‘army of the people,’” he added.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a former Army colonel, said if the United States had designated the NPA as a foreign terrorist organization, the Philippines could do so as well.
“As the Commander in Chief of all security forces and based on information from his national security advisers, it is the President’s prerogative (to declare the NPA a terrorist group),” Honasan said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA, its armed wing, have been on the US terror list since 2002. The European Union labeled the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization in 2005, but a European court ruling lifted the tag four years later.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III also pointed out that a regional trial court in Mindanao had declared the rebels as terrorists. “The President’s declaration is not far from coming,” Sotto said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the NPA was one of the the first foreign groups the US government tagged as a terror group following the terrorist attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The NPA was one of the first groups that was classified as a terrorist group when the United States enacted its Patriot Act,” Roque said on Monday.
Appease and deceive’
“If the President also declares something similar, that means the President agrees that NPA members are really terrorists,” he added.
But opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Mr. Duterte’s threat against the communist group was mere lip service to “appease and deceive” the Armed Forces of the Philippines over the continued presence of leftists in his Cabinet.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros appealed to both parties to create a more conducive environment for the resumption of peace talks. She said the government should carefully calibrate its words and actions while the NPA should correct its violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws.
The President on Saturday said he was fed up with the NPA’s attacks while the communist leadership was seeking the resumption of stalled peace talks with the government.
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