Obviously, the President was referring to the designation of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group by the Anti-Terrorism Council in late 2017 as authorized by Sec. 11 of Republic Act 10168, the Terrorist Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, following the standards set by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. It paved the way for the filing of a proscription case by the DOJ, which is now pending before a Manila Regional Trial Court.
Among the provisions of the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a restatement of Sec. 11 under RA 10168 – we simply added the mechanism for the freezing of assets by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Thus, there is nothing illegal in the action by the Chief Executive to proclaim that the CPP-NPA is a designated terrorist organization after the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has ruled on the matter.
What I simply clarified when asked to comment on the declaration made by the President is the difference between designation and proscription. Designation is administrative and can be exercised by the Executive Branch through the ATC, while proscription is judicial which only the RTC (under the now-repealed Human Security Act of 2007) and the Court of Appeals (under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020) has the power to decide.
In the case of proscription, the burden of proof lies with the Department of Justice. Even membership of a proscribed terrorist organization undergoes the same due process of law – meaning the Court of Appeals will decide who may be identified as members and subsequently arrested.
Unfortunately, designation and proscription have been used interchangeably – and conveniently at that – by critics of the Anti-Terrorism Law to advance their purpose of asserting that mere designation may result in arrest and detention, thus giving the ATC judicial powers under RA 11479 – which is wrong, if not malicious.