By Daine Mariel Chua

A Manila court established a boundary between activism and terrorism after it dismissed the government’s petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups, stating efforts to combat insurgency should not suppress democracy.

Photo Courtesy of Abogado/ABS-CBN News

In the decision of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19, Presiding Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar stated that activism is part of the democratic process where individuals involved cannot be considered automatically as part of illegal underground movements or the recently terror-tagged CPP-NPA.

“Activism is a political act, by which an informed and active citizenry expresses and works for change in an array of political issues that affect them,” the court said in its decision on September 21.

Moreover, being a democratic country where individuals have the right to voice their viewpoints in shaping government policies, the court warned not to label national democratic mass organizations (NDMOs) or other activist groups as a terrorist threat to the country.

“Members of NDMOs espouse valid societal change, without necessarily giving through to ‘armed struggle’ or ‘violence’ aimed at overthrowing the government, as a means to achieve the same,” it added.

This became the grounds of the court for junking the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) bid to label CPP and NPA as terrorist groups under Section 17 of the Human Security Act of 2007, for the organization is not “for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.”

Furthermore, the court emphasized the need to counter insurgency without removing the right of individuals to express themselves in a democratic country concerning people’s “right to dissent, to due process and to the rule of law.”

On the other hand, CPP Chief Information Officer Marco Valbuena approved the court’s decision as “reasonable and fair,” warning the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)  to stop branding the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, the DOJ did not push a reconsideration, arguing that the decision was based on ‘archaic legal provision’ and the saving clause of Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Edited by Audrei Jeremy Mendador