July 25, 2007

Dubious and dishonorable

One does not have to look very far to see how “terrorist”-labeling under the aegis of the US-led “war on terror” has been used for dubious and dishonorable political ends that have little to do with combating the scourge of real terrorism. The case of Filipino revolutionary and exile, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, who recently won a landmark decision of the European Court of First Instance (ECFI) annulling the decision of the Council of the European Union to put him in the “terrorist” list for more than four years, deserves serious study.

The Dutch and British embassies in Manila have been quick to dismiss the ECFI decision as being meaningless because it allegedly does not cover a later EU decision on 28 June 2007 that renewed Mr. Sison’s inclusion in the EU blacklist. This is in marked contrast to the assertion of his international battery of lawyers that a singular victory had been achieved, not just for their client, but for people and movements around the world who are being politically persecuted utilizing the onus of being called “terrorist”.

Several critical facts must be taken account of. The July 11, 2007 ECFI judgment found that Mr. Sison’s rights to due process had been denied him in three ways: first, the reasons for his being placed in the EU “terror” list were not stated; second, he was not allowed to defend himself; and third, his right to judicial protection was violated.

To a fair-minded person, it must be pretty obvious that the ECFI ruling states more than enough grounds for Mr. Sison to be immediately delisted. Repeatedly putting him in the EU blacklist from 2002 onwards constitutes a patent violation of his due process rights.

Moreover, the ECFI directed the Council to pay for the litigation costs that the plaintiff, Mr. Sison, had incurred, as well as those of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as intervener. Would the ECFI have done so if it did not find Mr. Sison’s petition questioning his inclusion in the EU “terror” list meritorious?

According to the International Committee – Defend, “The Council has made the blanket charge of terrorism against Prof. Sison but has not cited against him any specific act of terrorism. It cannot cite any such act because in fact Prof. Sison has never committed any kind of criminal offense within the jurisdiction of the European Union or anywhere else.”

We take note that during all this time the Arroyo government itself could not officially designate Mr. Sison as a “terrorist” because the crime of “terrorism” did not even exit yet in Philippine statues. (The Anti-Terrorism Act aka Human Security Act only came into effect on 15 July 2007.) The military and Malacanang could only engage in a relentless vilification campaign against Mr. Sison and the CPP-NPA, branding them as “communist terrorist”.

It would appear that what the US, the Netherlands, Brittain and the EU Council had used to justify the blacklisting of Mr. Sison were unsubstantiated and even spurious intelligence information from the Philippines. If so, the recent Supreme Court dismissal of the rebellion case versus Crispin Beltran and fifty other individuals, including Mr. Sison, further denigrates whatever bases these foreign governments have heretofore relied on for their unjust listing of Mr. Sison.

The Arroyo government is now in a quandary with the SC dismissal of the rebellion charges and its throwing out voluminous "evidence" presented by the Inter Agency Legal Action Group/Department of Justice. That all the nine months of "investigative" efforts turned out to be insufficient even to establish probable cause, much less to establish the guilt of the accused, shows how flimsy are the grounds on which the government has succeeded in persecuting (not prosecuting) the leaders of the Philippine Left.

The charges of rebellion against the legal leaders of progressive mass organizations, lumped together with Mr. Sison and other alleged top leaders of the CPP-NPA, concomitant with labeling them as "communist terrorists" and as a prelude to charging them with the crime of "terrorism" under the Anti-Terrorism Act, unmasks the real intent and practice of the GMA regime and its foreign backers to use "counter-terrorism" to suppress legitimate protests and stem the “Oust GMA” tide. ###

*Published in Business World

20-21 July 2007


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