NTF is a dangerous superbody that imposes de facto martial rule in PH - Karapatan

Human rights alliance Karapatan said, after President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent joint command conference with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), that the “NTF’s militarist whole-of-nation approach to the armed conflict in the country is nothing but a path that brings the nation into a black hole of authoritarian rule.”

“The government is well-aware that armed conflicts are rooted on the decades-long injustices perpetrated by the State against Filipinos, including those who seek for genuine societal reforms that address poverty and countless forms of exploitation, yet it refuses to back down on programs and policies such as the Rice Tariffication Law, its Build-Build-Build program and TRAIN law that impact on the welfare of the people. Through the NTF, the Duterte government uses a counterinsurgency program that employs brutal forms of attacks against communities and human rights defenders to pacify their opposition to these anti-people programs. It continues to weaponize the courts and the whole judiciary to go after critics. It continues to militarize the civilian bureaucracy, including line agencies that should deliver social services and local governments,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

The NTF, Karapatan said, is a dangerous superbody that imposes de facto military rule in the country. “Its logframes and indicators of success are measured through a yardstick that disregards political rights and civil liberties while ensuring the smooth implementation of government programs and projects that benefit big business and corrupt actors in power,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan cited the smear campaigns and legal offensives against government critics, activists, development and humanitarian workers, the raids and arrests of human rights defenders in Negros and Manila, and the killings of farmers as among the by-products of the NTF’s campaigns. 

Even local government executives who champion the rights of their poor constituents are not spared, Palabay said. This week, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año has called out Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for backing the arrested workers of Regent Foods Corporation and for bailing them out from jail. The arrested workers are part of those who went on strike last October 16, 2019 on the alleged physical and verbal abuses, non-implementation of the collective bargaining agreement, non-recognition of the new leadership within the union; and alleged contractualization schemes by the Regent Foods Corporation.

“The cries of the arrested workers are valid and can be considered as a concrete example of how ordinary Filipinos suffer from the injustices committed by the powerful. However, Año and the NTF discourage the likes of the young chief local executive Sotto from promoting a just and humane form of political leadership and governance,” she said.

Karapatan also cited the killings of two barangay chairpersons in Samar, barangay captains Apolonio Lebico and Wilmar Calutan, by suspected military agents this year, when they aided their constituents in filing complaints against elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines before the Commission on Human Rights on alleged violations in their communities. 

“The actions of the NTF and Año only prove that this government has engendered rights violations. We reiterate our call to rescind Executive Order #70, which has resulted to the creation of the NTF, and for the Duterte administration to stop its attacks against the Filipino people,” Palabay concluded.