KARAPATAN welcomes UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan’s recom to abolish NTF-ELCAC

February 2, 2024

Human rights alliance Karapatan welcomes the significant initial findings of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan during her ten-day official visit in the Philippines. We thank Ms. Khan for the meetings she had with civil society and people’s organizations, survivors, victims and their kin, representatives of peasant and indigenous communities, progressive parliamentarians, and political prisoners.

Her findings on how red- and terror-tagging has promoted and engendered a chilling effect on freedom of expression, on the lingering culture of impunity, and the continuing denial of justice for victims of rights violations in the Philippines are consistent with the sordid realities that journalists, freedom of expression advocates, activists and ordinary folks experience under the Marcos Jr. administration.

We strongly support her statement to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Khan being the second UN Special Rapporteur who made such recommendation after an official country visit. In November 2023, UN Special Rapporteur on climate change and human rights Dr. Ian Fry made the same recommendation, as he also called for the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Khan’s view on the incompatibility of the said draconian law with international human rights standards is attested to by the experiences of the very victims of the terror law – the indigenous human rights defenders in Cordillera arbitrarily designated as “terrorists,” development NGOs and churches who are facing persecution and whose humanitarian work and support for communities are impeded, young human rights workers who face trumped up charges when they assist communities affected by NTF-ELCAC’s military operations. We shall continue to call for the repeal of the terror laws, and resist the use of judicial harassment and weaponization of the law against protest and dissent.

The NTF-ELCAC’s bid to rename itself, in a desperate attempt by the Philippine government to gloss over its notorious record, is an empty and deceptive scheme. A monster by any other name remains a monster that is the NTF ELCAC, as long as it maintains the mandate, framework and whole of nation approach embodied in Executive Order No. 70 and Marcos’s National Security Policy. This deceptive move is akin to the Philippine government’s “abolition” of the Inter Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), after strong campaigns and recommendation of former UN SR Prof. Philip Alston, but formed another similar body that continued the persecution of critics and activists, through fabrication of trumped up charges.

We will continue to engage with Ms. Khan’s office especially as we anticipate her full report in June 2025 at the UN Human Rights Council. We will persist in exposing the fascist terror that the Marcos Jr.-Duterte regime perpetuates and pursue justice and accountability, anytime and anywhere.