Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written for The Diplomat

Over the past few weeks, as the Philippine Congress has deliberated amendments to the anti-terror law, critics have expressed concerns that it would trample the people’s civil liberties and further enable a descent into dictatorial rule under President Rodrigo Duterte. Those concerns merit closer examination in terms of both the issue itself as well as the broader political context in the Philippines.

The anti-terror law was passed in 2007, amid protests by activists who raised alarm over the vague provisions of the measure which they claimed would be used by authorities to persecute the critics of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

But it is expected that the amended law can be Duterte’s legal tool not only in the ‘war on terror’ but also in his ‘all-out war’ against communist rebels whom he branded as terrorists in 2017. Duterte once threatened to detain the ‘legal fronts’ of communists aside from ordering the release of a terror list which included leaders of activist groups, former legislators, and even a United Nations Special Rapporteur.

Given all this, it is understandable that there are concerns that the new terror law — which broadens the definition of terrorism, expanded the powers of the State, and removed the provisions intended to protect human rights — threatens to further undermine democracy in the Philippines and remove the legal obstacles for Duterte and the ruling party to establish a full-blown authoritarianism.

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The Trouble With Duterte’s New Terror List

Written for The Diplomat

he Philippines’ Department of Justice (DOJ) has petitioned a Manila court to declare the Communist Party (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups. Though the move is far from surprising, it is nonetheless troubling as it comes amid broader questions being raised about the government under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The petition was filed two months after Duterte terminated the peace process with communists. The government has also listed around 600 persons who are alleged to be leaders of the CPP and NPA.

The petition reiterated Duterte’s earlier proclamation declaring the CPP and NPA as terrorists for engaging in the criminal acts of “murder, kidnapping, arson and other activities for purpose of sowing terror and panic.” The CPP and NPA are accused of being “organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.”

In other words, the terror listing of hundreds of activists and NGO leaders could be part of an insidious plot to subvert democracy, impose authoritarianism through constitutional reforms, and attack those who dare oppose the rule of Duterte and the ruling party.

Given all this, it would seem wise for Duterte and the DOJ to reconsider this latest legal maneuver to undermine the CPP and NPA. Instead, they should seriously study the suggestion of their allies in both houses of Congress who proposed the resumption of the peace process with the communists despite Duterte’s non-stop ranting against the Left and DOJ’s proscription petition versus hundreds of activists. That would be a move that would actually contribute to furthering the country’s peace and security.

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