NTF-ELCAC’s amnesty offer, push for localized peace talks a façade to continue State repression

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) recommendation to offer amnesty to communist rebels through “localized peace engagements” is “nothing more than a façade for the continuation of its campaigns of State violence and repression,” human rights alliance Karapatan asserted on Tuesday, as the group renewed calls for the NTF-ELCAC’s abolition following the task force’s first executive committee meeting under the Marcos Jr. administration.

“The NTF-ELCAC is now dangling the idea of granting amnesty through so-called ‘localized peace talks’ — but any talk of ‘peace’ from the NTF-ELCAC rings hollow when it continues to deny its hand in red-tagging and inciting human rights violations. When war hawks and red-taggers talk about ‘peace,’ what they actually want is the complete and total surrender to the militarist and anti-people agenda of the NTF-ELCAC,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

During a press conference following the meeting last Friday, July 15, the NTF-ELCAC stated that it “strongly recommends the need for offering an amnesty to prevent the resurgence” of communist rebel forces “especially in geographically challenged, isolated and disadvantaged areas,” but the details and conditions of the amnesty are still unclear, according to National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairperson Clarita Carlos.

Nonetheless, both Carlos and Carlito Galvez, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity, have both said that the NTF-ELCAC has not recommended the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), opting instead to continue pursuing so-called “localized peace engagements.” Galvez further claimed that “in the history of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, all peace talks ended up to nothing.”

Palabay, however, rebuffed Galvez: “the peace talks between the government and the NDFP have yielded significant achievements towards just and lasting peace, most especially the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The only reason why the peace talks have stalled time and time again is because of the government’s insincerity and continued impunity for its attacks on people’s rights.”

“The NTF-ELCAC claims to address the roots of the decades-long armed conflict in the country through its ‘whole-of-nation’ counterinsurgency framework and tactics like so-called ‘localized peace talks,’ but what the NTF-ELCAC actually does is the opposite: it wants to cut off any possibility of resuming formal peace talks and, in doing so, it refuses to acknowledge that the roots of armed conflict causes of armed conflict are systematic, historical, and national in scope,” the Karapatan official continued.

“Any talk of peace should be anchored on granting general, unconditional, and omnibus amnesty to all political prisoners, the resumption of formal peace talks, and upholding all previously signed agreements. However, so long as the NTF-ELCAC remains in place, any prospect of peace remains dim — especially with the Marcos Jr. administration’s commitment to continue the NTF-ELCAC’s efforts. Any talk of peace should mean the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC,” she ended.