Duterte declares communist guerrillas in Philippines are terrorists
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has formally placed a group of communist guerrillas waging an insurgency against his government on the country’s list of terrorist organizations.
In December 2017, Duterte designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), a terrorist group, according to The Associated Press (AP). If the Philippine courts approve the designation, the communists would be the second group placed on the list under a 2007 anti-terror law. The Abu Sayyaf Group, which has been involved in kidnappings, beheadings and bombings, was the first group to receive the designation.
The United Nations and United States already had labeled the NPA a terror group. Duterte’s decision to follow suit drew praise from the Philippine military.
“We have long since maintained that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army is a blight to the Filipino people, with its members engaging in constant criminal activities and wanton acts of terror,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, according to AP.
The NPA has battled the Philippine government for decades, leaving more than 40,000 combatants and civilians dead and thwarting development in poor areas of the country. Some Philippine legislators said placing the group on the terror list was appropriate. “They [NPA] burn, destroy, kill innocent civilians to terrorize,” Sen. Ping Lacson told CNN. “They terrorize to sow fear and harass helpless civilians; they harass to extort under the guise of revolutionary taxation.”
The U.S. government designated the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization in August 2002 because its 4,000 members were attempting to overthrow the government through protracted guerrilla warfare. The U.S. Department of State said the communists primarily targeted security forces, government officials, local infrastructure and businesses that refused to pay “revolutionary taxes.” “Over the past few years, the communist group has continued to carry out killings, raids, kidnappings, acts of extortion and other forms of violence which are directed mainly against domestic and security force targets,” the department observed in a 2014 statement.
The designation by Duterte means harsher punishments will be levied against guerrillas captured by government forces. Under the Human Security Act of 2007, someone found guilty of terrorism can be sentenced to 40 years in prison without parole. Prior to the terror designation, someone convicted of rebellion could receive 20 to 40 years in prison. (Pictured: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, wearing a military uniform, delivers a speech in November 2017 during the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger regiment in San Miguel town, north of Manila, Philippines.)
The most recent atrocity associated with the NPA was the November 2017 killing of a police officer in Davao City. Police Officer Welfredo Garol Jr. died from multiple gunshot wounds after two men attacked him after trying to hitch a ride on his motorcycle, the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper reported.
The assailants fled with the officer’s firearm and motorcycle. The southern Mindanao police commander, Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, condemned the incident, calling it “a senseless and cowardly act against a good public servant, police officer and loving husband,” the Inquirer reported. “This act is a manifestation that the NPA and other communist front organizations have no regard for human rights and international humanitarian laws.”