MANILA -- Mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines is "not a crime," unless overt criminal acts are committed, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday.
Guevarra issued the statement in response to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who called for the reinstatement of the Anti-Subversion Act to counter the left's recruitment among the youth.
The measure, which outlawed communist party membership, was repealed under the presidency of Fidel Ramos.
"With all due respect to Sec. Año, mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (subversion) is not a crime unless overt criminal acts are committed," Guevarra said in a statement.
"Being leftist is far from being terrorist. As long as activism remains in the realm of ideology, there is nothing to be alarmed about. But once it flows into overt acts that threaten the national security or at least cause widespread fear among the people, government has to step in, and step in really hard," he later told reporters.
Guevarra instead proposed "giving more teeth" to the Human Security Act, saying there were "many provisions that need to be amended."
Guevarra said an example would be to amend the P500,000 penalty per day of incarceration upon a law enforcer who mistakenly accused and prosecuted a person for terrorism, even if done in good faith.
"There are laws penalizing malicious prosecution anyway," said the Justice secretary.