Human rights lawyer: Gov't terrorist list a 'shotgun witch-hunt'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11) — A human rights lawyer said the Justice Department's petition to name more than 600 individuals as terrorists is a move to persecute the opposition.

"It is part of a shotgun witch-hunt designed to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the critics, dissenters, social activists, human rights defenders and revolutionaries alike to give in to the government's repressive demand," lawyer Edre Olalia said Sunday.

Olalia, president of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), added, the list is an "odd concoction" of individuals which can lead to a "more intense crackdown."

The list forms part of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) February 21 petition to the Regional Trial Court in Manila to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army (CPP-NPA) as terrorists and outlawed organizations or associations.

The petition said the CPP and NPA have used, and are still using, "acts of terror to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic" among the people, with the end goal of overthrowing duly constituted authorities and to seize control of  the government through armed struggle.

The petition attributed the August 1971 bombing in Plaza Miranda to the CPP-NPA. Other acts of terror cited were continuous murder,  kidnapping, and arson.

"In fact by reason of their terrorist activities, the CPP-NPA was  designated as a terrorist group or organization by the (United States) and by the (European Union)," the petition added.

Olalia noted the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) was not mentioned on the list except as reference to the termination of the peace talks.

The NDFP is the negotiating arm of the communist rebels, while the NPA is the armed wing.

The NUPL lawyer added, most of the 656 individuals named were peace consultants, alleged underground rebels, and legal personalities of mass organizations all over the country.

In fact, included on the list are NDF consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, and Adelberto Silva who were granted provisional liberty in 2016 to participate in the peace talks between the communist rebels and the government.

READ: Manila court orders re-arrest of Tiamzons

The three were tagged as "known officers" of the CPP and NPA in the complaint.

The government ordered the arrest of the Tiamzons and Silva in January, after President Rodrigo Duterte canceled the peace talks in November.

READ: Gov't cancels all planned peace talks with communist rebels

Almost two weeks after, Duterte issued a proclamation declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

READ: President Duterte declares the communist party and its  armed wing a terrorist organization

The DOJ petition said even after the President's proclamation, the CPP-NPA still had the "intent to continue with its terrorist acts" to overthrow the government.

"Jose Maria Sison was even emphatic in declaring that the NPA can kill one soldier each day per region in order to compel the GRP to resume the peace negotiations," the petition read.

Also included on the list is United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, who earlier denounced the inclusion of her name.

"I am not connected at all in any way to those organizations nor do I have any knowledge, much less participation, with the alleged incidents cited in the petition," Tauli-Corpuz said in a statement.

READ: UN human rights experts slam inclusion of rapporteur in  DOJ 'terrorist' list

The Palace said the list is not intended to persecute UN experts, adding Corpuz is on the list "because of intelligence information that she is somehow connected with the CPP-NPA."

CNN Philippines' digital producer Eimor Santos and multi-platform writer Regine Cabato contributed to this report.