Karapatan slams NTF-ELCAC’s whole of nation approach, airs grave concern on inclusion of a CBCP commission in the TF’s execom

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

September 1, 2023

The “whole of nation approach” of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is nothing more than a direct subversion of the concept of the supremacy of the role of citizens and civilian authority over the government’s militarist goals and means. It is plain and simple deception – when civilian agencies and civilian entities are used to wage a war against the poor. It is a buzzword that merely sugarcoats the crisis and terror that counter-insurgency programs throughout regimes, most especially under the Marcos Jr. administration, have employed side by side with the brute force of the State.

Karapatan condemns the NTF-ELCAC’s whole of nation approach which is reiterated in Marcos Jr.’s National Security Policy for 2023 to 2028, as the administration uses deceptive rhetoric to camouflage the sorry state of human rights, the prevalent climate of impunity and the abject conditions of poverty in the Philippines.

With this, Karapatan views with grave concern the recent news that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), through its Committee on Public Affairs, is now one of the private sector representatives in the executive committee of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

This latest development is obviously part of the NTF-ELCAC’s so-called “whole of nation approach” of harnessing all available resources to surveil, profile, red-tag, marginalize, persecute and inflict other human rights violations against the poor and other critical voices, including the institutional church.

The NTF-ELCAC’s role in persecuting church workers is no secret. One of the very first victims of the NTF-ELCAC and the regime’s other repressive instruments like the anti-terrorism and anti-terrorist financing laws is the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), an inter-denominational organization long-engaged in missionary and advocacy work among rural communities of farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous people to improve their lives and advance their human rights. Founded in 1969, it is one of the mission partners of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. It now faces terrorist financing-related civil forfeiture cases before a Manila court, with some of its members even facing criminal charges of terrorism financing before an Iligan City court.

Others from the church sector have not been exempt from the NTF-ELCAC’s menace. Methodist pastor Rev. Glofie Baluntong from Oriental Mindoro, UCCP executive pastor Rev. Edwin Egar from Batangas and RMP lay worker Mariel Domequil from Eastern Visayas are just some of the church workers facing terrorism charges after having been falsely accused by military-sponsored witnesses.

And let us not forget that the NTF-ELCAC’s talking heads have branded the calls of Sr. Mary John Mananzan and Negros Bishop Gerardo Alminaza for peace and social justice as “diabolical and demonic.”

The ultimate victims of the NTF-ELCAC’s onslaught on the church’s missions are the tens of thousands of impoverished beneficiaries of their health, educational, livelihood, environmental and human rights advocacy projects.

There have been similar previous devious endeavors such as the Church-Military Advisory Group and the “Kasimbayanan” wherein the church has been used in justifying military operations that result in civilian casualties and unpeace in communities, and in harassing and coercing red-tagged civilians into signing documents branding them as NPA members and joining fake surrender ceremonies.

We urge the bishops to seriously reconsider its formal engagements with the notorious NTF-ELCAC. The church’s prophetic voice and mission will be better heard and appreciated outside the NTF-ELCAC, among the ranks of our oppressed and suffering people.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General