MALACAÑANG clarified Monday, November 20, that communist rebels will be labeled as "terrorists" only when they commit offenses classified as "acts of terrorism" under the Human Security Act (HSA).
"The Human Security Act imposes criminal responsibility on those that will perpetrate acts of terrorism," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press conference.
Section 3 of the Human Security Act of 2007, or Republic Act 9372, states that a person commits a crime of terrorism when he gets involved in piracy, rebellion, coup d'etat, murder, kidnapping, and crimes involving destruction.
Section 17 of the same law provides that any organization engaged in sowing and creating condition of "widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand" can be declared as a terrorist group.
On Saturday, November 17, Duterte bared his plan to issue a proclamation that will classify the communist insurgents as terrorists.
The President made the pronouncement as he maintained his position not to resume peace negotiations with the communists, whom he now considers as "criminals."
"Before, we recognized them as rebels. But with their continued predations and killing of innocent people and even an infant, four months old, I will be issuing a proclamation. I will remove them from the category of a legal entity or at least a semi-movement, which would merit our attention, placing them as terrorists, which is same with America," Duterte said.
"Beginning from now, there is no rebellion because rebellion is a life offense. It can be bailable except for the leaders. We would consider them criminals already," he added.
The United States has listed the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed component, the New People's Army (NPA), as foreign terrorist organizations since August 9, 2002.
Duterte, who earlier sought to forge a peace deal with the communist party to achieve law and order in the country, scrapped the peace talks following the NPA's series of attacks against state forces.
Roque said there was nothing wrong with being a communist rebel, unless they end up perpetrating violent acts, such as declaring war against the government.
"It is not a crime (to become a communist). It is a crime when you take up arms," Roque said in a press conference.
Roque further said that Duterte's intent to declare communist insurgents as terrorists signified that the Chief Executive could not feel the rebel group's sincerity in reviving talks with the government.
He said the government's war against the communist party remains in effect, unless it shows willingness to resume dialogue with the government peace panel.
"As long as the President could not feel sincerity on the part of CPP-NPA in pursuit of long-lasting peace, the war against NPA continues," the presidential spokesman said.
"The President's declaration to classify the NPA as terrorist group is an indication that for now, peace negotiations are suspended," he added. (SunStar Philippines)