NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging underscores urgency of passing bill on protection of rights defenders

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) red-tagging of the authors of House Bill No. 10576 or the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Act “only underscores the urgency of passing the bill into law,” human rights alliance Karapatan stated on Thursday, as it called on the Senate to pass Senate Bill No. 179, the proposed measure’s counterpart bill, filed by Senator Leila de Lima.

“The NTF-ELCAC and Badoy’s unhinged and rabid red-tagging of the authors of the proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Act in the House of Representatives should seriously alarm our senators to act with urgency. This is a very clear reason why a law on protecting human rights defenders in the country is long overdue, and why it should be passed without any delay,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay urged.

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, in her statement last January 20, red-tagged the authors of the proposed measure, as well as Karapatan and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, by claiming that it was authored by “urban operatives” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front, and that, if passed, “the bill will open the floodgates of abuse and torment on our people by terrorists” and render the Anti-Terrorism Act “ineffective and toothless.”

House Bill No. 10576 — a consolidated version of House Bills No. 15 filed by Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, No. 161 filed by Quezon City Sixth District Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, and No. 240 filed by the Makabayan bloc — was approved by the House of Representatives on its third and final reading last January 17, 2022 with a total of 200 affirmative votes. No legislator voted against or abstained on voting on the bill.

Palabay asserted that the Badoy’s statement “clearly shows the NTF-ELCAC’s aversion to uphold human rights in its militarist, fascist, and anti-people counterinsurgency agenda; after all, the NTF-ELCAC is guilty of the worst atrocities against human rights defenders from red-tagging, judicial harassment, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. Intentionally or not, she also exposes the true intent of the terror law: the NTF-ELCAC wants to use it specifically to target human rights defenders.”

“With or without the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act, human rights defenders should not be targeted by the government for their work. However, the specific situation of human rights defenders and the NTF-ELCAC’s attacks continue to put us — and each and every Filipino — in peril. It is therefore urgent that the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act be passed by the Senate along with the proposed measures to penalize red-tagging,” the Karapatan official ended.