Waging war for liberation is just

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

In conjunction with the February 8 celebration of Comrade Jose Maria Sison’s birth anniversary, progressives held a forum where they discussed the legal standing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) based on international and domestic laws and agreements. In the forum, Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers discussed the legal opinion why national liberation movement forces in the Philippines should not be labelled terrorists.

In addition, the groups asserted that the arbitrary and erroneous “terrorist” designation of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP is a big obstacle to peace and should be removed. They also called for the removal from the list of 19 supposed members of the CPP Central Committee, including consultant Luis Jalandoni, organizations allied to the NDFP, and six other civilians. They also demand the delisting of Dr. Natividad Castro, who was designated as a terrorist last December 7, 2022.

National liberation movement

The tactic of “terrorist” tagging by states opposing liberation movements across the world is not new, according to Atty. Olalia. After the 9-11 incident in the US, states weaponized laws to brandish “anti-terrorism,” designate liberation movements as “terrorists” and dismiss their legitimate struggles.

This is contrary to a number of international agreements and declarations covering the rights of people to advance their national liberation movements, including the right to bear arms. This includes the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples, also known as the Algiers Charter which was ratified on July 4, 1976 in Algeria. This document was used as the fundamental basis of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, which tries cases of state-perpetrated crimes and violations of human rights.

The Algiers Charter declared the right of the people to freely determine their political status against foreign interference. It also said that every people has the right to break free from any colonial or foreign domination, whether, directly or indirectly.

In the Philippines, the CPP leads the fight against foreign imperialist domination, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. It established the NPA to advance armed struggle to free the nation from these problems. It ultimately aims to achieve the people’s aspirations for genuine freedom and democracy.

Even the reactionary court of the Philippines recognized the legitimacy of the liberation movement in the country. On September 21, 2022, the Manila Regional Trial Court junked the “terrorist proscription” case against the CPP and NPA by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). In its 135-page decision, the court said the CPP and NPA should be more properly categorized as rebels, or rebels with a cause—the national democratic cause. According to Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar, the judge who issued the said decision, the CPP’s program is a “reasonable aspiration in any civilized society.”

Adherence to the international humanitarian law

The CPP and NPA’s adherence to the international humanitarian law (IHL) solidifies the legitimacy of its armed resistance. In principle, its armed forces direct its attacks, not against civilians, but against legitimate military targets of the state which the GRP represents. This is stated in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL, signed by both the NDFP and GRP in 1998. The orientation of liberation movements is a far from the characteristics of terrorists who aim to sow fear, terror and attack civilians.

Should there be mistakes or violations of principles and standards in the conduct of war, the CPP and NPA are willing to investigate, admit and take responsibility, make amends and impose internal sanctions on individuals or units involved, on top of its accountability in the IHL and CARHRIHL. In addition, the NPA strictly implements iron discipline among its commanders and fighters. Every fighter follows the “Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points of Attention” of the people’s army.

Waging war for liberation is just