Maoist rebels could be declared terrorists

Guerillas of the New People's Army - the communist party's armed wing - in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, last year.
Guerillas of the New People's Army - the communist party's armed wing - in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, last year.

MANILA • The Philippines yesterday asked a court to declare the communist party and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), a terrorist organisation, dashing already faint hopes of a recovery in a tattered peace process.

The petition before a Manila regional trial court seeks to formally terminate peace talks with Maoist rebels, a week after a Norwegian diplomat met President Rodrigo Duterte to try to convince him to restart negotiations that he had scrapped in anger at what he considers duplicity by the communists.

The Philippines has a state policy to not negotiate with any group defined as terrorists, like the Abu Sayyaf militants behind extremism, kidnapping, banditry and piracy.

The United States has, since the early 2000s, listed Abu Sayyaf and the NPA as terrorist organisations.

State Prosecutor Peter Ong said the rebels are "merely buying time by deceiving the Philippine government in entering into peace talks" because their main agenda was to overthrow the duly constituted authorities.

Mr Duterte is particularly aggrieved by the failure of a peace process that he made a priority and restarted in August 2016 within a few weeks of taking office.

He freed some communist leaders from jail and gave cabinet posts to several known leftists as a show of good faith.

But he angrily called off peace talks last year after guerillas killed several soldiers and police in a series of attacks.

The petition comes on the same day Mr Duterte is set to host a dinner for a group of dozens of former NPA guerillas who surrendered.

Most of the former rebels had not been to the capital and were given a tour of parks and malls.

More than 40,000 people died in the Maoist rebellion waged by about 3,000 guerillas for nearly 50 years, attacking mines, plantations, public infrastructure projects and remote army and police outposts in poor rural areas.

The on-again, off-again negotiations with the Netherlands-based exiled rebel leaders, which started in 1986, were brokered by Norway.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Maoist rebels could be declared terrorists'. Print Edition | Subscribe