MANILA – A day after getting his newly minted second title as presidential adviser on human rights, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday mere “conspiracy” with communist rebels could be basis for arresting and filing rebellion cases against the so-called “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The opinion, dished out at a Palace briefing for reporters, virtually gave legal mooring to President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to have key figures in “above-ground” organizations of the Left arrested once he proves they are working with the CPP-NPA. He had first made this threat last weekend as he announced he was ending all peace negotiations with the Left, terminating a love-hate relationship that had once seen him appoint key militant figures to his Cabinet.
Roque gave the view that “conspiracy” is enough basis to order the arrest of anyone with links to the NPA after President Duterte said in an engagement in Nueva Ecija Wednesday night that he would order the arrest even of civilians in “legal fronts” of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
According to Roque, one does not have to take up arms in order to be accused of rebellion, because, as the President – a former prosecutor in Davao – had indicated, mere conspiracy with the NPA is enough.
Nonetheless, Roque explained the decision rests on the Justice department whether or not to arrest CPP-NDP-NPA leaders who had been temporarily released for the peace talks.
If he were to be asked, Roque said that since the peace talks have been cancelled, the leaders with pending arrest warrants should be re-arrested.
“The President as public prosecutor has said that conspiracy is sufficient basis to accuse them of both rebellion and acts of terrorism; because in a conspiracy the act of one is the act of all. Even if they did not physically take up arms, if they’re part of a conspiracy to commit acts of terror or rebellion, then they can be held liable under the theory of conspiracy.”
“In answer to your question, they should [be re-arrested] because he has said that their temporary passes are effectively revoked and if there are existing warrants of arrest against them, then they should be arrested again,” Roque told reporters.
MILITANT LAWYERS CRY FOUL
Meanwhile, a militant lawyers’ group saw a sinister angle in the threat to arrest so-called legal fronts of the CPP-NPA “upon Duterte’s orders” deemed as “conspiring to commit terrorism.”
In the first place, said the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), “the Human Security Act is in the same mold as other draconian legal measures that sweepingly covers even legitimate forms of protest, dissent and resistance.”
The definition of “terrorism” in the 2007 law “that has been hitherto rarely used is so broad, so expansive, and so ambigous that it can be subjectively used to punish universally-accepted democratic rights of peoples such as freedoms of speech, expression, assembly, redress of grievances, and the right to self-determination,” NUPL said in a statement sent to media.
“In the context of the present dispensation to throw its mailed fist to legitimate criticism, ardent struggle for reforms or intense advocacies in the interest of the people, this legal offensive is, rather offensive.
“The use of the strong arm of the law by those in temporary and temporal power to ignore or suppress the people’s rights
has time and time again been proven to be a failure and a bad move,” said the NUPL statement signed by its chair Atty. Neri Colmenares, and its president, Atty. Edre Olalia.
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