By Aaron Recuenco
The Philippine National Police (PNP) believes that reviving the Anti-Subversion Law would ensure the death of the New People’s Army (NPA).
This is the reason, according to PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde, why he supports the proposal of Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano to revive Republic Act 1700, which criminalizes membership to any organization that is deemed national security threat like the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the NPA.
“The Philippine National Police sees the local insurgency movement dying a natural death when its ideological foundation is criminalized,” the PNP statement quoting Albayalde read.
“Because the CPP/NPA employs violence and terrorism to advance its cause to topple government, all its organizational components including ideological roots must be subject to the justice system as violations of law just like the criminal actions committed by armed fighters of the NPA,” the statement said.
Reviving the Anti-Subversion law, top police officials said, would augment President Duterte’s Executive Order 70 which is aimed at ending the communist insurgency in the Philippines.
“Criminalizing subversion will empower government to exercise its inherent right to protect itself against forces that seek to bring it down,” it added.
Calls for the revival of the law came amid allegations that militant groups were recruiting students in colleges and universities to join the insurgency.
But Albayalde himself said the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law needs further study, citing incidents in the past wherein it was used in human rights abuses.
The Anti-Subversion Law was passed in 1957 in a move to end the revival of communist insurgency from the remnants of the Hukbalahap (Hukbong Magpapalaya sa Bayan Laban sa Hapon).
While aggressive operations of American and Filipino forces contributed in reducing the strength of the Hukbalahap, it is the popularity and the negotiation skills of then President Ramon Magsaysay that convinced Luis Taruc and his men to surrender in 1954—and eventually led to the death of Hukbalahap.
Several years after it was enacted, President Marcos expanded the coverage of the law as the NPA grew in number—the reportedly at 28,000 armed members during the 1980s.
President Ramos repealed the law in 1992 as his focus is to come up with a peace agreement with all rebel groups—a move that succeed in dealing with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) but not with the communist dissidents.
But the PNP leadership said the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law only emboldened the communists.
The call to revive the Anti-Subversion Law came at a time when the government is claiming it is winning the campaign against the NPA with the arrest of its leaders, raids on its camps and the surrender of more than 1,000 communist rebels.
Former PNP chief and now Senator Panfilo Lacson had said he will not support the move since it would “encroach on the fundamental right to a peaceful assembly, to protest.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he too will oppose the move since the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law would criminalize membership in any organization—a right guaranteed by the Constitution.
The two senators are referring to Section 4 of the Bill of Rights (Article III) of the 1987 Constitution which states: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”