By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima today slammed the latest move of the Duterte administration to declare 600 individuals—including progressive legislators and a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur—as “terrorists” saying this would only instigate more violence in the Philippines and would not solve anything.
“It would only instigate more violence in our country already reeling from the bloodbath incited by this government’s war on drugs,” de Lima said in a statement.
The government petition, which was filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19, sought to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing , the New Peoples’ Arm (NPA), terrorists organizations.
But the petition also sought to include a UN Special Rapporteur, a former lawmaker, four former priests and at least 600 individuals as terrorists.
Included in the list are UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo.
The government also sought to tag CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, alleged CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Rafael Baylosis and former peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni as terrorists.
However, de Lima, a vocal critic of President Duterte, reminded the administration that suspected drug addicts and political dissidents “are not termites that he can exterminate to save the house.”
“These are human beings. He should address the root causes of the country’s problems instead of harassing and killing people,” she said.
De Lima said President Duterte should understand that peace-building is a painstaking process “and that there are legitimate grievances such as injustice, poverty and lack of economic opportunities fueling insurgency in the country.”
One of the few positive steps the Duterte administration has undertaken, she pointed out, was when it pursued peace talks with the communist rebels.
“But this radical policy shift of totally annihilating the insurgents puts in doubt its intention from the very beginning of the dialogue,” she said.
The lawmaker said such legal offensive launched by the Department of Justice (DOJ) signals the return of heavy-handed tactics which are potentially violative of the Bill of Rights.
She also said the move is reminiscent of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group or IALAG mechanism adopted by then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which was later on abolished due to alleged human rights violations.
“It’s not too late to go back to the negotiating table if this government is really sincere in looking for nonviolent means to address the communist rebellion in the country,” de Lima said.
“Unless, that is, Duterte’s true intention is to establish an authoritarian regime that eliminates dissent and kills democracy,” she lamented.