AFP, PNP stand by 'red tag' on Ocampo, Castro

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — The military and police are standing by their position that a former lawmaker and a sitting representative are "active members" of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA) amid threats of possible charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro have been tagged as communist rebels — a charge that has prompted them and their allies in the militant Makabayan bloc in Congress to consider filing charges.

"[Armed Forces chief] General [Carlito] Galvez cannot be cowed by a case that party-list congressmen contemplate filing against him. He says that he has been incarcerated for years fighting for what he believes in. All this time—that spans nearly four decades—he has been putting his life and limb on the line, as well that of his men, protecting the people and the State in the name of our constitutional mandate," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

Galvez was detained in 1989 for his involvement in the failed coup against then President Cory Aquino. He was granted amnesty in 1996.

"The chief of staff [of the] AFP will not succumb to propaganda and lies of the enemies of the state who belong to front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He will not cower in fear for these terrorists organizations that have exploited and killed Lumads and their children and even fellow members of the New People's Army on mere suspicion that they are government assets," he added.

The AFP also noted how Ocampo acted like an NPA spokesperson when he said in a TV interview that the CPP's armed wing does not recruit minors.

"Which is, of course another lie, as evidence and testimonies abound refuting that particular claim. But then again, it only goes to show and reveals that Mr. Ocampo is one of them," Arevalo said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday, Director General Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, backed the military's position that Ocampo and Castro are communist rebels.

"Probably it's true that they are really active members of the CPP," Albayalde told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

Ocampo and Castro have decried the allegation, saying it would endanger them. But Albayalde said their lives are only in danger because they are supposedly supportive of communist rebels.

"They support the CPP-NPA. So if putting their lives in danger, it's because we are going against the rebels, remember - and they're supporting the rebels," he said.

However, Albayalde clarified that being a member of the CPP is not a crime.

"But when you now support the rebellion, you bear arms or go against the government, that's another thing," he said.

Arevalo said Ocampo and Castro should not worry about their "red tagging," but should be afraid of the kidnapping and trafficking charges filed against them for allegedly holding minors and transporting 14 children from Talaingod, Davao del Norte to an unknown location.

The 18 accused posted bail on Saturday totalling ₱1.44 million. They deny the charges, saying they were on a humanitarian mission and decried these as "political persecution."

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Castro and Ocampo are not members of the CPP-NPA, but are supportive of their activities in the Davao del Norte town.

Lorenzana said they were probably transporting the children to be used for propaganda for the NPA's 50th anniversary on December 26.

Ocampo was one of the founders of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the CPP political arm. He later chaired the NDF peace panel in talks with the government.

The Department of Justice previously sought to tag Ocampo as a terrorist under the Human Security Act, but this bid was junked by a Manila court which ruled that he is not a party to the case.

This was in line with Duterte's proclamation of the CPP-NPA as a terror group following the termination of peace talks with the rebels, who have been waging the longest communist insurgency in Asia.