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Esperon to Joma, comrades: You may file for delisting

“(Within) fifteen days, they can file for delisting,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said yesterday, citing provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) that entitles them to contest their classification as terrorists. (Presidential Photo)

MANILA, Philippines — Self-exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison and 18 other suspected officers of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are entitled to file for delisting as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).

“(Within) fifteen days, they can file for delisting,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said yesterday, citing provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) that entitles them to contest their classification as terrorists.

“They have a chance to petition if they are not terrorists. But do you think those Central Committee members would dare come out?” he said in Filipino, stressing that Sison and the other CPP officers have pending warrants of arrest for various crimes.

Likewise, Esperon doubts the Abu Sayyaf Group would protest their inclusion in the ATC’s terror list.

Apart from Sison, the ATC also listed known leader of the CPP-New People’s Army Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria, who were released from prison in 2016 to serve as consultants in the resumption of peace talks.

But during the months-long peace negotiations that remained deadlocked, NPA rebels allegedly continued attacks in the countryside. When the peace talks collapsed, the Tiamzon couple were nowhere to be found.

Esperon, vice chairman of the ATC, challenged Sison to return to the Philippines and face all the charges against him.

He also debunked claims by the group that their rights were violated when the government published their names in newspapers recently.

“That’s not a violation because they’re already subjects of arrest warrants and as stipulated in Section 25 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, they can be designated (as terrorists). Proscription is another thing,” Esperon said in a television interview.

Esperon noted that Sison and his colleagues are also in the terrorist list of the United Nations Security Council, as well as countries such as the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and in the European Union.

President Duterte declared the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group in 2017. Esperon said the ATC’s move was only to formalize the designation.

He added that the names on the list were vetted by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

“Would Sison even deny he’s the chairman of the CPP-NPA? Are the 18 others in the list denying it when we have so much information and reports about them?” Esperon quipped.

Motion against Esperon

Meanwhile, the top security official claimed that petitioners who want him out of the oral arguments on the ATA might be members of underground mass organizations affiliated with the CPP.

The petitioners filed a motion before the Supreme Court asking a recall on Esperon’s interpellation due to supposed red-tagging against organizations.

“Perhaps some of these petitioners belong to these organizations. I don’t know who filed the petition but we’ll look into what organization they belong to,” he told the Laging Handa press briefing.

For his testimony in the oral arguments, Esperon played a two-minute video showing Sison enumerating the organizations affiliated with the CPP and said it was proof that these groups were fronts for the CPP.

Esperon also said that peace talks with the communist party is currently off the table because the President expects better results in “localized peace engagements.” – Romina Cabrera

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