27 January 2018

Random quick thoughts about the President’s threat to “go after” what he alludes as the so-called “legal fronts” of the CPP-NPA once the courts have proscribed the latter as “terrorist” under the Human Security Act:

These persistent presidential pronouncements are disturbing and distressing.

To start with, the definition of what constitutes “terrorist” under the Human Security Act is legally problematic as it is vague and overbroad, possibly covering or cynically extending to even innocuous political advocacy.

It undermines a slew of basic rights. It effectively undermines on vague grounds the political expression of even legal and legitimate organizations and associations.

It is also violative of the right to due process because of the vagueness and overbroadness of the definition of “terrorism” i.e. committing a predicate crime (including the oft-abused illegal possession of firearms or explosives) which has the effect of “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

Moreover, it can penalize the exercise of the right of free expression, association and assembly and practically circumvents unreasonable searches and seizures as well as the right to bail, travel, and against incommunicado detention.

On another score, it degrades and does not respect the legitimate status of
national liberation movements and their actions including the recognized use of armed force as long as they are in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Relatedly, under international law, there must be a distinction between armed combatants and civilians. To treat them as one and the same regresses us to the time when unarmed activists, progressive party list members, indigenous peoples, farmers, religious, media, doctors and even lawyers were attacked because of the labeling and demonization which resulted in incitement to violence or actual violence against them.

It is a basic legal principle that there cannot be “guilt by association” nor bills of attainder that illegalize (or proscribe as terrorist in this case) individuals or groups
without a fair, impartial and appropriate judicial process specifically against a particular individual or organization. Proscription cannot be applied through a repressive political osmosis.

The label “legal fronts” is such a subjective and malicious description of unarmed legitimate organizations who have their own membership, advocacies, platforms and methods separate and distinct from what they are supposedly “fronting” for.

Hence, such reckless threats are legally questionable and worse, will erupt in even more vicious and wholesale violations and would also constrict whatever democratic breathing space there is left.#


Atty. Edre U. Olalia
NUPL President