Why are CPP-NPA Terrorists Deadlier than Religious Extremists?

CPP-NPA terrorists in formation near their camp in 2017. Credit: AFP 


Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, groups affiliated with ISIS-Philippines continue efforts to recover from battlefield losses, recruiting and training new members, and staging suicide bombings and attacks with IEDs and small arms that targeted security forces and civilians. ISIS-Philippines affiliates active in 2019 included elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines (AKP), and the Maute Group. The Philippines remains as a preferred destination for Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) from Indonesia, Malaysia, and countries in the Middle East and Europe.

Southeast Asian extremists and potential terrorists have been influenced by the desire of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) to turn Southeast Asia into a theatre of conflict like Mosul and Raqqa in Iraq. The Islamic State (IS) wanted to declare an East Asia Wilayat, or province of the caliphate, in the Philippines. In the battle of the southern Philippine Islamic city of Marawi, IS wanted to replicate what they had previously established in Iraq and Syria. The siege of Marawi shows that IS can co-opt local groups and undermine the sovereignty of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states and their bilateral and regional security cooperation.

Additionally, these four elements including rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members continue to impede progress between the Philippine government and MILF toward a political settlement of long-running insurgencies. In January 2019, residents of the region passed a referendum to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law to implement the national government’s peace agreement with the MILF. Ratification of the law established a new, more autonomous regional government led by the MILF in February 2019. Despite such challenges to peace from religious extremists, the Philippines faces a deadlier threat.

CPP-NPA Terrorist Network Deeply Entrenched in the Philippines

The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) terrorist network relentlessly continues to attack security forces and civilians, and the government sustains military and law enforcement operations against the communist-terrorist group (CTG). Official records — i.e., combat reports and death benefits to soldiers’ families of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) — show that

Credit: Steven Pabalinas

No Women and Children Convicted of Terrorism in the Philippines

The Philippines is the last country in Southeast Asia to pass an anti-terrorism law. It started off on the wrong foot — the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) — which had a deleterious effect on the motivation of government security forces to apprehend terrorists. The HSA contained a provision that stipulated in SECTION 41:

“…Upon his or her acquittal or the dismissal of the charges against him or her, the amount of five hundred thousand pesos (Php500,000.00) a day for the period in which his properties, assets or funds were seized shall be paid to him on the concept of liquidated damages. The amount shall be taken from the appropriations of the police or law enforcement agency that caused the filing of the enumerated charges against him/her.”

This particular section of the HSA which CPP-NPA-NDF-allied lawmakers deliberately included in 2007 ultimately meant that if a police or military officer had arrested a terrorist suspect in the Philippines, and the terrorist’s lawyer succeeded in dismissing all the charges, then the PNP or AFP should pay the terrorist suspect Php500,000.00 (~USD 10,400) for every single day that he or she was under detention. This law was repealed upon the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Currently, there are two Philippine anti-terrorism laws. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 took effect on July 18, 2020. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 aims to secure the Philippines and protect its citizens from domestic and foreign terrorists like the Abu Sayyaf and the ISIS. The anti-terror law allows the detention of suspects for up to 24 days without charges and empowers the anti-terrorism council to designate suspects or groups as suspected terrorists who could be subjected to arrests and surveillance. Currently, there are 37 petitions on the Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 which have been filed at the Philippine Supreme Court. The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 criminalizes the financing of terrorism and related offenses, and by preventing and suppressing the commission of said offenses through freezing and forfeiture of properties or funds while protecting human rights. Any person who, directly or indirectly, wilfully and without lawful excuse, possesses, provides, collects or uses property or funds or makes available property, funds or financial service or other related services, by any means, with the unlawful and wilful intention that they should be used or with the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part: (a) to carry out or facilitate the commission of any terrorist act; (b) by a terrorist organization, association or group; or (c) by an individual terrorist, shall be guilty of the crime of financing of terrorism and shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua and a fine of not less than Five hundred thousand pesos (Php500,000.00) nor more than One million pesos (Php1,000,000.00).

Despite the presence of such laws since 2007, to-date, the Philippines has had no convictions in Philippine courts on terrorism and terrorism-related offenses related to women and children who are members of designated terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, ISIS East Asia and the CPP-NPA.

More recently, on September 18, 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for release and protection filed against the CPP-NPA-linked youth activist group Anakbayan in connection with the alleged disappearance of a student who was a minor at the time of her recruitment. On October 26, 2020, the Department of Justice also dismissed the case against the respondents for violation of Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, And Other Crimes Against Humanity. More recently, last October 29, 2020, two former female child soldiers of the NPA recently filed a case against NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee for violations of Republic Act 9851 (Philippine Act on Crime Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity) and Republic Act 11188 (Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act) before the Leyte Provincial Prosecutor’s Office on November 21, 2020. The siblings also filed rape charges against CPP-NPA leader (Regional Party Committee Head), Paterno Opo alias “Yoyo Dodong”. It remains to be seen if there will be terrorism-related convictions in Philippine courts by 2021.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of STRAT.O.SPHERE CONSULTING PTE LTD.

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  • Drei Toledo is a Countering Violent Extremism specialist. She researches on ISIS Foreign Terrorist Fighters and their families.

  • Professor Amparo Pamela Fabe is a Professor of Financial Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime at the National Police College, Philippines. She is a specialist in Countering Violent Extremism.

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