The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday said it will no longer appeal the ruling rendered by the Manila City Regional Trial Court that declared that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, are not terrorist organizations.
Instead, the DOJ will file a new petition with the Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla said.
Remulla said the Manila RTC resolved the DOJ’s 2018 petition under provisions of the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, which has since been repealed by the 2020 ATA.
“Under the new law (Republic Act 11479 or the ATA), the jurisdiction for the proscription of terrorist organizations will lie with the Court of Appeals,” Remulla said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
On Sept. 21, Manila City RTC Judge Marlo A. Magdoza-Malagar promulgated a ruling that dismissed the DOJ’s proscription petition on the basis of RA 9372 or the HSA.
“Efforts on the part of the present government to counter-insurgency should include respect for the right to dissent, due process, and to the rule of law. Just as the respondent organizations (CPP and NPA) are uncompromising in their ideals, so must the government be uncompromising in safeguarding the Constitution it is sworn to uphold,” the court said.
“In proscription proceedings, the burden of proof lies with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prove that a group of persons, association, or organization is organized for the purpose of committing terrorism or is committing terrorist acts. Just like any judicial proceeding, the respondent terrorist organization is accorded due process of law,” it added.
But Remulla expressed dismay over the lower court’s ruling.
“It became a treatise on how to defend the National Democratic Front or maybe the so-called progressive movements, the people who want to bring down the government,” he said.
The Justice chief also questioned the judge’s reference to red-tagging, when this was not part of the case.
He also disagreed with the statement made in the ruling that said taking arms based on a political cause “is not terrorism and that armed conflict is rooted in social ills.”
“That was never adduced as evidence. There was never a statement made by the CPP-NPA in court because they did not participate in the proceedings,” he noted.
“So, for that to come from the judge just betrays the feeling of the judge towards the case. It means the judge already had bias from the very beginning,” Remulla said.
Meanwhile, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said that while the court’s decision is a “minor setback” it would not undermine the government’s campaign against the communist insurgency.
But National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos said giving a level of permanency to the NTF-ELCAC was “not in order.”
During a hearing of the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, unification, and reconciliation on the proposed measure to institutionalize NTF-ELCAC, Carlos said they do not favor such a move as this would go against the policy of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to restructure the government bureaucracy.
Senator Ronald Dela Rosa suggested that the task force be replaced by the National Council to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. But Carlos said she believes it is not in order to institutionalize the NTF-ELCAC into a council.
“What is being suggested here is for a task force to have substantive legal personality when it becomes a council, and therefore it will have a life of its own and will continue to address something which I think is time-bound. I would argue to let the NTF-ELCAC continue with its mandate and legal personality rendered by E0 70,” Carlos said.