Philippine anti-terrorism law

Worse harassment to come after CPP-NPA terror designation – son of slain peace consultants

Lian Buan

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Worse harassment to come after CPP-NPA terror designation – son of slain peace consultants

RED-TAGGING. Progressive individuals and organizations hold a lightning protest in front of the Gate 1 of the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Quezon City on October 28, 2020.

File photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

'Kapag na-red tag ka sa kasalukuyang administrasyong ito, hindi malayo na ikaw ay ma-harass, dakpin, saktan, at ang pinakamahirap 'yung pinapatay,' says lawyer VJ Topacio

There will be more victims of worse harassment from state forces after the designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army (CPP-NPA) as terror group, said lawyer VJ Topacio, son of former peace consultants of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) who were killed in a police operation in late November.

“Ina-anticipate ko na mas matinding pandarahas, pangha-harass, at mas dadami pa ang biktima ng karahansan ng administrasyong ito,” Topacio said on Saturday, December 26, during a streamed webinar of advocates for the resumption of peace talks with communists.

(I’m anticipating worse violence, worse harassment, and more victims of this government’s brutality.)

The Philippine’s Anti-Terrorism Council has officially designated the CPP-NPA as a terror group, using a unique designation power under the hotly-contested anti-terror law whose constitutionality is in question before the Supreme Court.

Under the law, and its equally-contested implementing rules and regulations (IRR), the Anti-Money Laundering Council can freeze the assets of the designated terror group.

But petitions filed with the Supreme Court have raised fear that designation will be used by law enforcement to arrest individuals accused of being part of the designated terror group – in this context, activists.

“Wala pa ‘yung designation, tuloy-tuloy na yung red-tagging – alam nating lahat ‘yan. Kapag na-red-tag ka sa kasalukuyang administrasyong ito, hindi malayo na ikaw ay ma-harass, dakpin, saktan, at ang pinakamahirap, ‘yung pinapatay,” said Topacio.

(Even before designation, the red-tagging has continued – we all know that. If you are red-tagged under this administration, it’s not far-fetched that you would be harassed, abducted, hurt, and worst, killed.)

Topacio’s parents, Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, were consultants of the NDF but retired and living at an apartment in Angono, Rizal, when authorities raided their house. Police said the elderly couple shot at them, which prompted cops to return fire, killing the two.

A raid on the power of a search warrant has been a police template, resulting in the arrest and charging of dozens of activists in the past year.

The law and the IRR say the effect of designation is freezing of assets, but the law’s vague language worries activists that there would be worse effects than freezing of assets.

“Ang pag-designate ng CPP-NPA as terrorists, ito ay administrative pa lang, wala pa itong court proceedings. Hihintayin natin na umabot ito sa korte at ke-kuwestiyunin natin ito,” said Topacio.

(Designating the CPP-NPA as terrorists, it’s an administrative act, there are no court proceedings yet. We will wait for this to reach court and we will question it.)

Designation is a distinct power from proscription. Proscription is a court proceeding to declare someone as a terrorist, and which undergoes trial, as opposed to designation which is a secret process of the Anti-Terrorism Council made up only of Cabinet secretaries.

‘Reject’ the designation

It is unclear whether the CPP-NPA will seek to delist itself, which is provided for under the IRR.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the CPP’s information officer Marco Valbuena said they “reject” the designation, adding that the Anti-Terrorism Council’s resolution has “falsehoods and infirmities.”

The December 9 resolution cited “similar designations” of the CPP-NPA as a terror group like that of the United Kingdom supposedly made in 2002 and reaffirmed on July 7, 2020.

“The CPP-NPA is not included in the list of proscribed terrorist organizations of the United Kingdom, not even in its July 17, 2020 updated list,” said Valbuena’s statement.

Valbuena said the designation “is a precursor for heightened fascist suppression against the broad democratic forces which are being red-baited and persecuted for fighting Duterte’s tyrannical rule.”

“The regime is setting the stage for all-out suppression of democractic rights using anti-terrorism as pretext,” said Valbuena.  –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.