Karapatan renews call on Ombudsman to act on complaints vs NTF-ELCAC officials over red-tagging

Photo by Grig Montegrande/Inquirer

Human rights alliance Karapatan called on the Office of the Ombudsman anew to act on the criminal and administrative charges the group filed a year ago against former and current ranking officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for red-tagging, among them NTF-ELCAC vice chairman and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Marie Badoy, former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Antonio Parlade Jr., and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration undersecretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson.

“For the past three years, the NTF-ELCAC, led by its officials, has systematically and repeatedly engaged in red-tagging Karapatan to make our human rights workers targets of counterinsurgency operations. Far from being mere statements, red-tagging is a policy of the NTF-ELCAC, one which has proven to be deadly — and a year since we filed our complaints, Esperon, Badoy, Parlade, and Uson are yet to be held to account for inciting human rights violations and even war crimes for their red-tagging as they continue to do so with impunity,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

The NTF-ELCAC was created when President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 on December 4, 2018. Last year, Karapatan filed complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against Esperon, Badoy, Parlade, and Uson for violations of the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Ombudsman Act. Under the complaint, Palabay asserted that red-tagging constitutes the crime against humanity of persecution.

The Karapatan official further noted that other groups and organizations have also similarly filed complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman. “Time is of the essence, and these are people with blood on their hands, and their hands go bloodier by the day they are not held accountable, thereby allowing them to continue committing these brutal crimes against the Filipino people. How many more dead bodies or people unjustly jailed will it take before meaningful actions are taken?”

She cited, in particular, Parlade’s role in the Bloody Sunday raids throughout the Southern Tagalog region during his tenure as military’s Southern Luzon Commander along with his position in the NTF-ELCAC. The Department of Justice recently recommended the filing of murder charges against the law enforcement personnel involved in the killing of leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion — one of the nine who were killed during the raids.

“As we demand the Ombudsman to act now on our complaint and hold the NTF-ELCAC’s officials accountable for their red-tagging and crimes against the people, we also assert the call to abolish the NTF-ELCAC. For the past three years, it has become a weapon of the Duterte administration’s campaigns of mass murder, terror, and repression — all funded by billions of taxpayer’s money. Far from achieving peace, it has become a means for the government to unleash war and violence upon its own citizens, especially those who work for the defense of people’s rights,” she ended.