Abolish NTF-ELCAC, stop State-sponsored bombings and IHL violations! 

December 4, 2023

Karapatan joined other organizations from the indigenous people, peasants, environmental defenders and church people in calling for a stop to State-sponsored aerial and artillery bombings of communities in the course of the Marcos Jr. regime’s brutal counter-insurgency war as well as other grave violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

The protesting organizations presented their demands at the doorstep of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), scoring the notorious agency’s orchestration of intensifying counter-insurgency drives that have resulted in the military’s increasing use of aerial and artillery bombardment, targeting communities suspected of supporting the New People’s Army (NPA).

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, “These targeted bombing attacks are a blatant violation of IHL which protects the rights of civilians in the context of armed conflict.”

Karapatan documented as many as 481,918 victims of forced evacuation under the Duterte regime, many of them displaced as a consequence of intensive aerial and artillery strikes due to Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao. Martial law marked the further escalation of the government’s brutal counter-insurgency war in the island.

Under the Marcos Jr. regime, Karapatan has documented as many as 22,391 victims affected by bombings of State forces in rural and indigenous communities, while 39,769 have been subjected to indiscriminate firing in the course of military operations. Nearly 25,000 have been forcibly displaced from their communities. 

“More than 500 individuals have been misrepresented as NPA surrenderees, even as tales of fake military encounters are being spread by the military to justify the killings of ordinary peasants,” added Palabay.

“These documented information,” said Palabay, “reflect only a part of the sordid reality of human rights in the Philippines. One can only imagine the seriously disruptive effects on people’s lives and livelihoods of repeated evacuations resulting from prolonged military campaigns in the countryside.”

“On top of these IHL violations,” said Palabay, “there have been reports of escalating human rights violations, especially in Southern Tagalog.” She cited the enforced disappearances of 65-year-old fisherfolk organizer Mariano Jolongbayan in Batangas and peasant organizer Mar Silos in Quezon, and the arrest of sugar workers organizer Karla Mae Monge, also in Batangas. Southern Tagalog has borne the brunt of human rights violations in recent months, with close to 20 of its human rights defenders slapped with alleged violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“As we mark the fifth anniversary of the notorious NTF-ELCAC, we call for a stop to the militarization of the countryside as an immediate step to alleviate the plight of the many victims of counter-insurgency related violations of human rights and IHL. We insist on the abolition of NTF-ELCAC as the Marcos government’s main machinery that perpetuates such violations and other forms of political repression,” asserted Palabay.