By Roy Mabasa and Jeffrey Damicog
President Duterte has lamented his decision to temporarily free about 32 communist leaders, including couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, and is now contemplating on ordering their mass arrest should they fail to voluntarily surrender.
“They are now considered ordinary criminals,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of newly promoted generals and flag officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Malacañang last Wednesday.
The President stressed this after Malacañang issued Proclamation No. 374 categorizing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups.
“For those who are out temporarily, you just maybe zero in now, because any day, I will order for their mass arrest. Wala akong magawa, eh. Ginusto ninyo (I can’t do anything. This is what you wanted) I’m addressing them through the TV. Ginusto ninyo, eh, (This is what you wanted),” Duterte said.
The release of the communist leaders dismayed some military and police officials.
“I gave too much too soon. I know iyong pulis, military, medyo may sentimiyento sa akin (some police and military officials have sentiments against me). You know, I release almost about 32,” Duterte said. He described the Tiamzons as the “ideologues of the Communist Party.”
“One day, I will have you arrested. You want to fight the country, create a revolution? Fine. We have been fighting you for 50 years and we will fight again for another 50 years. That is what… what you want,” the Chief Executive said.
With the CPP and the NPA now tagged as terrorist groups, the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to cancel the Tiamzon couple’s bail bond and bring them back to jail.
“In view of the cancellation of the peace talks, there is no more legal ground for the continuous provisional liberty of the accused; thus, the immediate recommitment and cancellation of bail of all the accused should logically follow,” read the motion dated November 28 and filed before Manila RTC Branch 32.The motion is signed by State Prosecutors Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas and Aristotle Reyes.
Apart from the Tiamzons, the DOJ also sought to bring back to jail the couple’s co-accused and fellow communist leader Edilberto Silva.
Benito is the chairman of the CPP-NPA, while, his wife Wilma is its secretary-general and Silva is the CPP secretary general and the chief of the National Organization Department.
All three are facing multiple murder charges before the Manila RTC over the alleged 1985 purge in Leyte of communist rebels suspected of being military informants.
Government peace panel (GRP) chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestro Bello III also urged all communist leaders conditionally freed by the government to surrender to authorities.
“Now that there are no more peace talks as stated by our President, those who were freed should surrender.” Bello said in a radio interview in DZRH.
Aside from arresting them, Duterte also threatened to “confiscate those things that are not allowed by law.”
“If you come at… by violent resistance, you place in danger the lives of people and the soldiers and the police. We will answer the appropriate action,” he said.
Under the proclamation categorizing the CPP-NPA as terrorist group, the President cited RA 10168 that tackles the “freezing and forfeiture of property or funds” of designated terrorist groups or individuals.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre directed the Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) to ask the Regional Trial Court to declare the CPP and the NPA as terrorist groups.
In Department Order (DO) No. 779, Aguirre said: “The Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) is hereby directed to file the necessary application or petition organization with the appropriate court for the proscription or declaration of the Communist Part of the Philippines-New People’s Army as terrorist organizations pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 9372, otherwise known as the ‘Human Security Act of 2007’.”
“The OPG is also directed to request assistance from the concerned agencies to submit regular reports of the actions taken in the implementation of this Order,” Aguirre also ordered. (With a report from Samuel P. Medenilla)