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.


Tanzanian police say driver identified in billionaire kidnapping

Updated 19 October 2018
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Tanzanian police say driver identified in billionaire kidnapping

  • Dewji, 43, who is considered Africa’s youngest billionaire, was seized by gunmen as he entered a hotel gym in Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam Thursday morning last week.
  • His family is offering a reward of half a million dollars (435,000 euros) for information that would help police find him.

NAIROBI: Tanzanian police said Friday they had identified the driver of a vehicle used in the kidnapping of Tanzanian billionaire Mohammed Dewji, who was snatched over a week ago.
Dewji, 43, who is considered Africa’s youngest billionaire, was seized by gunmen as he entered a hotel gym in Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam Thursday morning last week.
His family is offering a reward of half a million dollars (435,000 euros) for information that would help police find him.
Police chief Simon Sirro told a press conference that surveillance videos at the hotel had captured images of the vehicle used by the kidnappers, a dark blue 4X4.
“We have been able to identify the vehicle. So we have advanced a lot in our investigation, we will publish these photos,” he said.
“On top of that we know this car entered the country on September 1 from a neighboring country,” Sirro added, refusing to name the country.
“We already have the names of the vehicle’s owner and the driver.”
Sirro said he would send Tanzanian police to the neighboring country in question, without giving any details.
He said that of 27 people arrested eight were still in custody.
The opposition has called for independent international investigators to take over the probe, citing an increase in kidnappings and attacks in which no one is ever brought to book.
Dewji is chief executive of the MeTL Group, which operates in a dozen countries and has interests in agriculture, insurance, transport, logistics and the food industry.
According to Forbes, he is worth $1.5 billion (1.29 billion euros) and ranks 17th on the list of African billionaires.
He was a member of parliament from 2005 to 2015, and in 2013 became the first Tanzanian to feature on the cover of Forbes magazine. Two years later, he was named Forbes’ Africa Person of the Year.
Dewji is also the main shareholder in Tanzania’s Simba FC football club.