After two years of red-tagging, lies, and rights violations, NTF-ELCAC should be defunded and abolished — Karapatan

At a protest action outside the Department of Interior and Local Government office in Quezon City, human rights alliance Karapatan called for the defunding and abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which, the group said, “has only ramped-up the Duterte administration’s campaign of lies, red-tagging, and mass murder” against progressive groups, human rights advocates, civil libertarians, and members of the political opposition ever since it was established when President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 two years ago on December 4, 2018.

“For the past two years, the bloodthirsty officials of the NTF-ELCAC have slandered and incited harm and violence on a broad range of groups, sectors, communities and individuals through a massive and rabid red-tagging rampage. It has churned out reprisal suits through malicious and baseless accusations, planted evidence, and witnesses whose testimonies are perjured against those who criticize the Duterte’s murderous and anti-people tyranny — with the recent Senate hearings on red-tagging as the roadshow for its lies. The NTF-ELCAC is a body of foul-mouthed militarists, war criminals, and sycophants which has fomented an even more dangerous climate of impunity in the country; it should be defunded and abolished,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay continued that, through the NTF-ELCAC’s whole-of-nation approach, “the Duterte administration has poured billions of people’s taxes and mobilized the entire government machinery into a tried-and-failed counterinsurgency tactic that, instead of addressing the roots of armed conflict and insurgency in the country, is nothing more than a thinly-veiled cover for McCarthyite political repression through the instigation, incitement, and encouragement of human rights violations including red-tagging, death threats, illegal or arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against activists, government critics, and dissenters.”

The NTF-ELCAC has a proposed budget of PhP 19 billion for 2021. Along with President Duterte, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is at the helm of the NTF-ELCAC as the task force’s vice chairman. The Karapatan officer stated that “Esperon is merely recycling the same dirty lies and deadly rhetoric back when he was the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 2006 to 2008, as he led the military in the killings, enforced disappearances, and tortures of hundreds of civilians, including activists, in the bloody counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya. Esperon is joined by other war criminals and notorious human rights violators such as Eduardo Año, Delfin Lorenzana, Carlito Galvez Jr., Antonio Parlade Jr., and Debold Sinas in leading this task force.”

“The NTF-ELCAC is setting the stage for the all-out crackdown on dissent with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, with the Anti-Terrorism Council headed by the same bloodhounds in the NTF-ELCAC. The Duterte government is merely wasting money for red-tagging, repression, and mass murder by funneling billions and billions for the NTF-ELCAC. This task force has facilitated the rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis in the Philippines and we assert that the NTF-ELCAC must be defunded and abolished. A task force that is founded on lies and headed by war criminals can never end armed conflict: only in addressing its roots and enacting comprehensive socioeconomic and political reforms can we lay the groundwork for resolving the armed conflict and pave the path towards just and lasting peace,” Palabay ended.