CEBU CITY, Philippines – The government’s anti-communist task force (NTF-ELCAC) should not be used to harass political opponents, Vice President Leni Robredo said during a press conference in Cebu City on Monday, December 13.
While she agreed with the task force’s overall mandate to end the insurgency, including a “whole-of-nation” approach and localized peace talks, she said the task force has become too powerful.
“I agree with the help that is being given to really incentivizing barangays with the barangay development fund, I’m all for it. What I don’t agree with is [if the] task force becomes so powerful that it is already used to harass,” Robredo said. “I have been at the receiving end of red-tagging, and it’s not something that we should treat lightly,” she added.
Robredo’s tempered position on the controversial agency has been criticized by progressive groups.
The presidential aspirant said, however, that she maintained her position that localized peace talks and the “whole-of-nation approach” is the way to end insurgency.
“I would be open to resuming peace talks but for me, every place has a different reason as to why insurgency abounds. For me, a lot of the core issues will be addressed when the talks are localized, that’s one,” Robredo said.
Robredo added that while she was not against the “whole-of-nation-approach,” she was against the way NTF-ELCAC has been red-tagging individuals and the way the task force has been used to “go beyond” the mandate it was given.
Critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-insurgency campaign say that the agency has used red-tagging to silence dissidents and go after activists and journalists critical of this administration.
Red-tagging hits home in Cebu City as well. Back in February, NTF-ELCAC defended a controversial raid on a Lumad school that happened last February at the University of San Carlos here.
Police called it a “rescue operation” and accused the school of conducting “warrior training” of child soldiers on campus. Seven teachers and adult Lumad taking refuge on campus were arrested in the operation.
The University of San Carlos denied it allowed “warrior training” on its campus.
Robredo was in Cebu Monday to meet with the Osmeña family and members of the business process outsourcing sector in Cebu.
This is her third time to visit the province so far this year.
In 2016, Robredo defeated rival Bongbong Marcos with more than 800,000 votes for the vice presidency. Despite this, Cebuanos still voted overwhelmingly for President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 polls.
The Osmeña’s local alliance Bando-Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan endorsed Robredo for President last November. – Rappler.com