No basis to probe communist conspiracy theory – DOJ chief
MANILA, Philippines — There is no factual basis to merit an investigation of claims that communist rebels had infiltrated the campaign team of Vice President Leni Robredo, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday.
“We don’t have sufficient factual basis at this time to initiate an investigation,” Guevarra told reporters.
He added that Filipinos, whether communists or not, are free to support political organizations and candidates of their choosing in the upcoming May 9 general elections.
“It is when they commit acts of violence to sow terror and destabilize public order in the guise of exercising their political rights that will prompt the [Anti-Terrorism Council, or ATC] to take action,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) chief said.
Republic Act No. 11479, more known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, had beefed up the council’s authority, allowing it to arbitrarily designate persons and groups as terrorists without due process.
The law, which the Supreme Court had declared constitutional save for two portions, also authorized the ATC to order the detention of alleged terrorists for up to 24 days sans court-issued warrants.
On Jan. 26, the ATC designated 16 groups as “terrorist organizations” effectively freezing their financial assets and properties and placing them under the authority of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), have been designated terrorist organizations by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The ATC also designated the National Democratic Front a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021.
In April last year, the ATC also issued a resolution designating 19 people as leaders of terrorist organizations, some of whom were also included in a proscription case the government filed against more than 400 people in Manila in 2018.
But upon assuming office, Guevarra had the list amended to only eight names of alleged leaders of the CPP-NPA. The court found only two of those names as indubitably connected to the CPP-NPA.
Guevarra explained earlier that a person’s or group’s designation as terrorist does not automatically mean impending arrest but “freezing of bank accounts and other financial assets of the designated person/entity.”