Lawyers’ group: No basis to declare most peace consultants as ‘terrorists’

Published May 13, 2021, 4:26 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Public Interest Law Center

There is no basis to designate as “terrorists” most of the peace consultants who, three years ago, had been cleared by the trial court in a proscription case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In a statement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said:

“The inclusion of most peace consultants and advocates, who participated in negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), in Resolution Number 17 (2021) by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) is a perturbing development after quiet, insistent efforts to reopen talks.”

PILC said these peace consultants are not members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The statement was issued after the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) issued Resolution No. 17 dated April 21 which designated as “terrorists” 19 persons whom the council said are members of the CPP Central Committee including Rafael Baylosis, Rey Claro Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva.

The PILC said that the Manila regional trial court (RTC) had already dropped the names of Baylosis, Casambre, Ladlad and Silva from the list of suspected terrorists in the proscription case filed by DOJ which sought to declare as terrorists the members of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

“In 2018, our clients Rafael Baylosis, Rey Claro Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva submitted documents and proved to a Manila trial court that they were not connected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party or the New People’s Army,” the PILC stressed.

“Not only had they shown long track records in the legal democratic movement, the court aptly dropped their names from the proscription petition under the Human Security Act because there was no evidence linking them to terrorist organizations or activities,” it said.

It pointed out that peace consultants got “selected and appointed for their expertise in the topics of the talks agenda” and “agreed to participate and contribute their knowledge in the peace negotiations, under protection of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) afforded for all consultants of both panels.”

But with the breakdown of the talks, the PILC lamented that the peace consultants have been “politically persecuted, charged with trumped-up cases in court, illegally arrested and detained, and vilified in public.”

“The inclusion of peace consultants in the list, obviously, is a direct consequence of their role in the peace talks and a clear disincentive to participate,” it said.

“With this move by the GRP, it closes possibilities for a peaceful resolution of the root cause of the armed conflict,” it added.