Some senators support Duterte's plan to tag CPP-NPA terrorists

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — Some senators on Monday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to declare the New People's Army (NPA) a terrorist group.

Senator Ping Lacson lauded Duterte, saying only a president with his guts can label the rebel group as terrorists.

"Their ideology has been gone more than a decade ago. They burn, destroy, kill innocent civilians to terrorize; they terrorize to sow fear and harass helpless civilians; they harass to extort under the guise of revolutionary taxation," Lacson said in a text message.

Senators Tito Sotto III and Gringo Honasan agree that it's long overdue to declare them terrorists because the NPA has been on the United States' terror list since 2002.

"They have already been declared by an RTC (Regional Trial Court) in Mindanao as such, therefore, the President's declaration is not far from coming," Sotto said in a text.

Honasan said, "Kung yung U.S. ay dineklara ang CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-New Democratic Front) na terrorist organization, tayo pa kaya?"

But first, Duterte must first fire all the communists in his Cabinet before he believes the president's threats, Senator Sonny Trillanes said.

"I will assume that this recurring threat to declare the CPP-NPA-NDF as a terrorist organization is just lip service to appease and deceive the AFP," he said in a text, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Duterte on Saturday said he will consider the communist rebels as criminals, after the death of a four-month-old baby and two other civilians in a November 9 ambush in Bukidnon.

READ: Duterte to declare NPA as terrorist group

The NPA apologized and took full responsibility for the attack, but Duterte doubted the rebel group's sincerity.

"We will file terrorist, murder lahat. Arson with murder. Lahat na. Because I would consider them criminals already. Now, it's a great conspiracy between itong mga BAYAN pati — they are in conspiracy with the rebellion going on," Duterte said.

The President was referring to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), an alliance of left-wing organizations.

Duterte also threatened to go on an offensive against militant groups.

"We will study and maybe we will have a crackdown here somewhere. Nagsasawa na ako dito sa kalokohan nila (I'm tired of whatever they are doing)," the President said.

One of the groups under BAYAN slammed Duterte for the threat.

"That Duterte is contemplating a crackdown against activists and progressive groups speaks much of his antipathy to any criticism and his thirst for absolute power. Repression is the logical consequence of equating all dissent with destabilization," Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a Sunday statement supported the Presidents' decision.

"Government has done its part and negotiated with sincerity. We totally agree with the Commander-in-Chief in calling the NPAs terrorists because it is clearly reflected in the numerous criminal/lawless/terrorist acts that they have been committing against defenseless and innocent civilians," AFP Spokesperson Restituto Padilla said.

A policeman in Davao City and a paramilitary member in Negros Oriental were also killed on November 13 and 15, respectively, after alleged attacks by the NPA.

Under the Human Security Act of 2007, a person who is found guilty of the crime of terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 40 years of imprisonment, without parole.

This merits a heavier penalty compared to rebellion, which is punishable by reclusion perpetua, or 20 to 40 years of imprisonment, eligible for pardon after 30 years.

Terrorism under the law, includes rebellion, insurrection, murder, and arson, among others.

The Philippines is the 12th among 163 most affected by terrorism worldwide, and the first in Southeast Asia, said the 2017 report of the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace.

The ranking was based on the number of attacks and deaths resulting from these.

The report cited the NPA for carrying out attacks, although these were more on security forces and government officials.

Duterte suspended the fifth round of peace talks with the communist rebels on May 27 after an increase in the group's offensive attacks throughout the country.

READ: Gov't 'will not proceed' peace talks with communist rebels

Back in January, the government tried to ask the United States to remove Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison from the list of international terrorists.

Sison fled to The Netherlands three decades ago to seek political asylum, after he was declared a terrorist by the U.S. Government.