Designation of terrorists evidence-based: Palace exec
By Priam Nepomuceno / Philippine News Agency
Undersecretary Severo Catura, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Executive Director (Contributed photo)
MANILA – The decision to designate certain individuals as terrorists was evidence-based and in response to the people's cry for justice on the atrocities committed by these persons or their followers.
Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Executive Director, Undersecretary Severo Catura made the comment during the "TAGGED: Debunking Lies by telling the truth" online press conference on May 17
"So, ito pong designation na ito ay hindi isang desisyon na galing lamang sa gobyerno (designation is not only a decision of the government) and just pulled out of nowhere. This is evidence-based and is a response to our people’s cry for the government to act on these atrocities," he said.
Catura, who is also National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) spokesperson for International Affairs, Peace Process, Human Rights Concerns, said the government will be reneging on its obligations if this process was not done.
"(We) will be reneging on our obligation. And you know what? We stand to be charged with violating our people’s rights because of that negligence," he added.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL), he said, is part and parcel of the NTF ELCAC as it is an instrument to advance a just and lasting peace.
"Again, I wish to emphasize that the National Task Force is an instrument to advance a just and lasting peace. We only need to review the EO (Executive Order) 70 for us to understand that. And we recognize, if you’re going to look at it from the perspective of the peace process, there will always be concerns arising from the current continuing armed conflict," he added.
In the peace process, the Philippine government has two compelling obligations.
One is it has to protect the lives of innocent civilians that are caught in the midst of internal conflict including combatants that are rendered out of combat.
Secondly, the government is required to effectively prevent communities in conflict areas from being adversely affected.
Accountability under IHL
Catura said the government is holding armed groups accountable under IHL due to their human rights abuse and atrocities they have done against innocent civilians including children.
"So, we are telling our people and the world three things, very important three things – the exact grievous nature of terrorism that the Philippine government is now being confronted with. Kanina binanggit (earlier it was mentioned) recruitment of children as child combatants. This was even recognized by no less than the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General. There’s the destruction of property, and then iyong willful killings na sinasabi (being reported)," he added.
For the second, he said the government wishes to project the capacity and the commitment of our Armed Forces to do everything within its power to go after the offenders.
“And number three, kaya po mapapansin po ninyo (if you will notice), there will be the filing of cases because we also wish to show the competence of our courts to act on these cases file before them invoking IHL as a tool that will allow the wheels of justice to roll," he added
All these actions are consistent with the desire of the State to protect its people, he said.
"Hindi po ibang grupo (not other groups) who are claiming that they are human rights defenders. No, it is the State that is the human rights defender because it is the sole bearer of human rights. And note further again that if the State fails to act on these abuses, such will constitute a violation of human rights. In effect, the use of IHL actually enables the State to fulfill this duty," Catura said.
Republic Act 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 place, or private property; and cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure.
It also defines terrorists as 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.
The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has formally designated Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison and 18 others, as well as 10 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other extremist groups as “terrorists”.
Signed by the council’s chairperson, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and vice-chairperson Hermogenes Esperon, on April 20, the ATC designated the “central committee members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA) also known as Bagong Hukbong Bayan (CPP/NPA) as terrorists, which was designated under ATC Resolution No. 12 (2020) released on May 13.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)