WE have high regard for Sen. Loren Legarda, a champion of environmental causes and cottage industries. But we cannot support her position on Leftist rebels, which our columnist Rigoberto Tiglao described as naïve and dangerous.
First, Senator Legarda is wrong about the aim of those insurgents. They do not merely want "social justice," as she said during the Senate plenary. Instead, the rebels want to supplant the democratically elected government, even if that requires violence.
They are not interested in peace, but the senator and others claim the rebels are. That was evident when they squandered many opportunities offered by the previous Duterte administration. The former president did more than his predecessors to accommodate former rebels in his Cabinet and to compromise during peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) and their military wing, the New People's Army (NPA).
Second, Senator Legarda was not on point when she argued that harboring Leftist ideologies does not make one a subversive. Of course, Filipinos are free to believe in whatever political ideology that they want. It is not a crime to be merely a communist. But taking up arms against the government because of political or religious beliefs is unlawful. Lawmakers should know the difference.
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Clearly, the CPP, the NDF and the NPA are not harmless organizations clinging on to some discredited ideology. They were declared as foreign terrorist organizations long before the enactment of Republic Act 11479 or the "Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020," which Senator Legarda wants to review.
In 2002, the CPP and the NPA were added to the list of foreign terrorist organizations by the United States, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand. The United Kingdom reaffirmed that listing in 2020, when Canada also identified those groups as terrorists.
The "terrorist" designation became official in the Philippines after the Anti-Terrorism Act went into effect. Incidentally, that law was challenged in the Supreme Court, which essentially upheld it, except the parts about Red-tagging.
We concede that Red-tagging is wrong, even counter-productive in the campaign for peace and order. As pointed out by others, including then-Justice secretary Menardo Guevarra, it would be better to file cases in court against alleged terrorists and their agents. Such charges are best settled in courtrooms, rather than in the so-called court of public opinion.
We also disagree with Senator Legarda's portrayal of Dr. Jose Rizal, whom she likened to some Leftist rebels fighting for supposedly worthy causes. But in fairness to the senator, she is not the first to make that false comparison.
Dr. Rizal became a National Hero because he opposed a colonial power that came to this country to exploit people and natural resources. The natives who were already here had no say in the matter. And it should be noted that Dr. Rizal used nonviolent means to fight for his cause, mainly writing and lobbying.
In contrast, the CPP-NDF-NPA is an armed group, and it has been fighting governments that were legitimately elected by Filipinos. Incidentally, Senator Legarda's remarks sounded more insensitive as they were made days after the anniversary of the Plaza Miranda bombing that killed nine people and injured 95 others. That 1971 terrorist act was ordered by Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the CPP, according to revelations made by Victor Corpus. He was the military officer who defected to the rebels and became an NPA commander. Later in life, Mr. Corpus became a rebel-returnee.
The Leftist rebels have been carrying out similar attacks for generations. Just in 2021, college student Kieth Absalon and his uncle were the latest victims of a landmine planted by the NPA. Note that landmines have been banned under international humanitarian law since 1999, precisely because they indiscriminately kill and maim. Senators should instead be demanding justice for the Absalon family.
Of course, Senator Legarda has a right to her own opinion. As a person, she means well. We still believe that. But as a senator of the Republic and a military reservist to boot, she should see the real intent of any armed group that disregards the rule of law.