Lacson: Manila RTC’s dismissal of proscription case vs CPP-NPA is not a setback

Former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Thursday, September 22 said the Manila Regional Trial Court’s junking of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition for proscription that sought to declare as “terrorist organizations” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), should not be viewed as a setback.

The former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief said the Manila RTC’s dismissal of the pending proscription case is “pursuant to the Saving Clause provision under the Anti-Terrorism Act and should not in any way be interpreted as a setback for the law itself.”

“That being said, that is exactly the reason why ‘proscription’ is designed to be the exclusive authority of the judiciary since it could involve possible detention of individuals and members of organizations suspected to be violating the Act, hence due process of law must be strictly observed,” Lacson said in a statement.

“Unlike ‘designation’ which only involves preliminary freezing of bank accounts and assets of those involved in terrorist financing, and which the Anti-Terrorism Council is given the authority to perform since it is merely an administrative act,” he pointed out.

In her decision, Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar of the Manila RTC Branch 19 said that while former President Rodrigo R. Duterte may have CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations, “this does not render moot the instant proscription proceedings” since “’proscription’ and ‘designation’ being two distinct processes.”

According to Magdoza-Malagar, “designation is an administrative act of the Executive branch through the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), while proscription is judicial proceeding before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) (under the now-repealed Human Security Act of 2007) or before the Court of Appeals (CA) (under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020).

“In proscription proceedings, the burden of proof lies with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prove that a group of persons, association or organization is organized for the purpose of committing terrorism, or is committing terrorist acts,” the judge said.

“Just like any judicial proceeding, the respondent terrorist organization is accorded due process of law,” she stressed.

In her decision, Magdoza-Malagar also said efforts on the part of the current government to counter insurgency should include respect for the right to dissent, to due process and to the rule of law.

Malagar said that while the respondent organizations—both the CPP and the NPA—are uncompromising in their ideals, “so must the government be uncompromising in safeguarding the Constitution it is sworn to uphold.”

Despite the ruling, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, said it would not hinder the efforts of the government “to fight this menace of the society.”

Dela Rosa is one of the senators who has been pushing for the institutionalization of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the government’s anti-insurgency program.

“Even if they were not proscribed, it doesn’t hinder our efforts, the efforts of the government to fight this menace of the society,” Dela Rosa said in an interview.

“We respect the decision of the court but... had it been the other way around, that would have greatly helped resolve our problem on insurgency,” said Dela Rosa who is also a former PNP chief.