Philippines seeks ‘terrorist’ tag for 600 alleged communist guerrillas

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison are among those the Philippine government wants to be declared as ‘terrorists’. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Philippines seeks ‘terrorist’ tag for 600 alleged communist guerrillas

MANILA: A UN special rapporteur, a former Philippine lawmaker and four former Catholic priests are among more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas the Philippines wants declared “terrorists,” according to a government petition filed in court.
The justice ministry last month announced it wanted a Manila court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), “terrorist” organizations, but made no mention of individuals it would also target.
The petition, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, suggests President Rodrigo Duterte is following through on his threats to destroy a movement that he now regards as duplicitous.
Within weeks of taking office in July 2016, he freed some communist leaders and put leftists in his cabinet, to show his commitment to finding a permanent solution to a five-decade conflict.
But he abandoned the process in November after what he said were repeated attacks by the NPA while talks were going on.
The petition said the rebels were “using acts of terror” to sow fear and panic to overthrow the government.
Duterte has been venting his fury at the Maoists almost on a daily basis and considers them as much of a security threat as a plethora of domestic Islamist militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
By declaring the groups and individuals terrorists, the government would be able to monitor them closer, track finances and restrict their access to resources, among other things.
The petition included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who was listed as a senior member of the Maoist rebel group.
Tauli-Corpuz declined to comment on the petition until she had seen it.
Four former Catholic priests were also named in the case, including Frank Fernandez, whom the government said was an NPA leader in the central Philippines. There was no immediate comment from Fernandez.
The petition included 18 top leaders of the communist party as central committee members, including founder Jose Maria Sison and peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, both based in The Netherlands for three decades.
Sison was a mentor of Duterte when he was at university. They are now bitter rivals, with seemingly no limit on the ferocity of their rebukes of each other.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the Maoist rebellion. Negotiations have been on and off since being brokered by Norway in 1986.
Former congressman Satur Ocampo, who has a pending criminal case for his involvement in the murder of suspected military spies in the communist movements in the 1980s, was also on the list.
Ocampo said he would challenge any “terrorist” label.


Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

Updated 23 min 34 sec ago
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Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

  • Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month
  • The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days

JAKARTA: Families of some of the 189 people killed in a Lion Air plane crash plan a protest rally in Indonesia on Thursday, while stalled efforts to bring the main wreckage to the surface and find the second black box are set to resume next week.
The Boeing Co. 737 MAX jet crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 shortly after take-off from Jakarta, but the families expressed concern that the remains of 64 passengers have yet to be identified, with just 30 percent of the plane’s body found.
“The relatives hope that all members of our families who died in the accident can be found and their bodies buried in a proper way,” a group that says it represents about 50 families said in a statement.
“We hope the search for the victims will use vessels with sophisticated technology,” it added, ahead of the rally planned for outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.
Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month, Reuters reported.
Indonesia’s national transport panel said the vessel was due to arrive on Monday.
The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days, a source close to the airline said on Thursday, on condition of anonymity, adding that Lion Air is paying because the government does not have the budget.
A spokesman for Lion Air was unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.
“Funds for the CVR search will be borne by Lion Air which has signed a contract for a ship from a Singaporean company,” a finance ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments.
In this case, investigators said they had faced bureaucratic wrangling and funding problems before Lion Air stepped in.
Safety experts say it is unusual for one of the parties to help fund an investigation, required by UN rules to be independent, so as to ensure trust in any safety recommendations made.
There are also broader concerns about resources available for such investigations worldwide, coupled with the risk of agencies being ensnared in legal disputes.
The clock is ticking in the hunt for acoustic pings coming from the L3 Technologies Inc. cockpit voice recorder fitted to the jet. It has a 90-day beacon, the manufacturer’s online brochure shows.
The flight data recorder was retrieved three days after the crash, providing insight into aircraft systems and crew inputs, although the cause has yet to be determined.