Public need not worry about ‘designated terrorists’ list

By Azer Parrocha / Philippine News Agency

MANILA – 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.


“Kasama po sa ginagarantiyang karapatan, freedom of speech and freedom of liberty, yung ating tinatawag na due process clause. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law’ (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.


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.


“For the law-abiding citizen(s) of this country, I am addressing you with all sincerity: Huwag ho kayong matakot kung hindi ka terorista. Kung hindi ka naman sisirain mo ang gobyerno, pasabugin mo ang simbahan, pasabugin mo iyong public utilities. Well, just to derail para matumba na tuloy ang bayan (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.


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).


“Hindi lang po Pilipinas ang nagbibigay ng depenisyon sa terorismo (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.


He said it is no secret who local terrorists are, since they are identified by their intent to cause death and destruction.


“At pagdating naman po sa mga lokal na terorista, alam po natin kung sino sila dahil bagama’t mayroon tayong demokrasya, bagama’t mayroon tayong party-list system, patuloy pa rin ang paggamit ng armas para makamit ang kanilang mga layunin (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.


“Importante po ‘yan dahil kung sila po ay walang pondo e hindi na po nila mapapatuloy yung kanilang mga terroristic acts among others (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.


“Mamayang hapon po tatanungin ko kung anong reaksyon niya (I will ask him this afternoon),” he said.


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.


Support


Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has expressed its support to ATC’s Resolution Numbers 16 and 17 which designated 29 individuals as terrorists.


"The military organization further conveys its full confidence to the ATC’s decision which was carried out based on verified and validated information," AFP chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement.


With this development, he noted that the AFP will be able to further protect Filipino citizens from terrorist acts by closely working together with government law enforcement agencies and focusing our resources to bring the mentioned personalities to justice.


"We are optimistic that the ATC’s resolution will continue to empower government, under the rule of law, to eradicate terrorism in our country, and maintain a peaceful and progressive nation for every Filipinos," Sobejana added.


ATC tagging not basis for arrest


Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said these individuals will not be arrested on the sole basis of the ATC listing.


“Hindi po namin concern, it doesn't matter to us kung sila po ay kasama sa anumang listahan. Ang sa amin lamang pagbabasehan lang natin is yung umiiral na batas at kung meron mga violation dito, doon lang tayo papasok para magsagawa ng imbestigasyon and appropriate police (action) (It is not our concern. It doesn’t matter whether they belong to whatever list. As for us, our basis are the existing laws and if there are violations, we will conduct an investigation and give appropriate police action),” PNP chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar told reporters during the Barangayanihan Food Bank launch in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City on Thursday. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)

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