MANILA, Philippines – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr is clear on his all-out support for the notorious National Task Force to End Local Armed Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), but said in a presidential “debate” it’s not the only solution.
“Ipagpatuloy ang NTF-ELCAC ngunit huwag tayong aasa na ‘yan lang ang sosolusyon sa problema natin at marami pang social problems na kelangan tugunan,” said Marcos during the debate on Tuesday, February 15, organized by the SMNI network, which is owned by doomsday preacher Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who is wanted in the United States for sex trafficking of children.
(We will continue NTF-ELCAC but let’s not put all our hopes that it will solve all our problems because there are a lot of social problems that need to be addressed.)
One of those, said Marcos, was distribution of wealth. But he was not able to expound how he will do this outside of the NTF-ELCAC, when the national task force was created precisely for this holistic approach.
The so-called whole of nation approach, the central idea behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 which created the NTF-ELCAC, mandates the task force to “deliver basic services and social development packages, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.”
The national task force includes the social welfare department and even the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to handle these social packages.
The problem that arose for the NTF-ELCAC is the lack of transparency in auditing the funds that are coursed through member agencies. Some are not able to spend the money, like the police, and TESDA was flagged for improper allotment.
Slammed for arbitrary red-tagging of activists and community organizers, NTF-ELCAC is most felt for its legal and publicity offensives against progressive personalities. Marcos said he will still pursue peace talks, but he will just as fervently oppose the ideology that he says fuels violence.
Peasant groups in his home turf Ilocos Norte have been feeling the brunt of red-tagging in recent years. The localized peace talks that Marcos says he will continue have targeted community leaders in Ilocos and subjected them to harassment.
“Fascists never learn,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of progressive rights group Karapatan, itself a victim of red-tagging.
“His fake and empty words on the resumption of peace talks is betrayed exactly by his pledge to continue the militarist efforts of this disgusting task force if he becomes elected,” Palabay said in a statement on Wednesday, February 16.
Marcos said he still treats the CPP-NPA-NDF as enemies, citing the recent death of football player Keith Absalon which the NPA took accountability for saying he was not the target.
“Wala na tayong maaaring sabihin kundi tratuhin sila ng kalaban dahil kinalalaban tayo, kaya kailangan natin ipagtanggol ang ating sarili,” said Marcos.
(There’s nothing else we can say but to treat them as enemies because they are fighting us, and as such we need to defend ourselves.)
‘Armed struggle roots from injustice’
During the debate, presidential candidate and Partido Lakas ng Masa bet Leody de Guzman reiterated that armed struggle was a result of injustice.
“Kailangan talaga nating magkaroon ng isang matinong pag-uusap para mangyari ang peace talk at matigil na itong digmaan sa ating sariling bansa sa pagitan ng kapwa Pilipino. Pero i-recognize natin na may rebolusyon dito sa ating bansa, may mga pag-aalsa. At ‘yong mga pag-aalsang ‘yan ay resulta ng inhustisya sa ating bansa,” the labor leader said.
(We need to have genuine communication to facilitate peace talks and end this war in our country among our fellow countrymen. But we need to recognize that we have a revolution in our country, there are uprisings. These uprisings are the result of injustice in our country.)
De Guzman also mentioned that land reform, unemployment, and poor social services, among others, also caused the insurgency.
“‘Yong hindi pagpapatupad ng mga kabuhayan para sa ating mga mamamayan. May mga kahilingan ‘yong ating mga mamamayan nang pagkakaroon ng reporma sa lupa at iyan ay napagkasunduan na pero hindi natutupad, ay dapat nating itupad ‘yan. ‘Yong social services sa ating mga mamamayan, ‘yong kalayaan, ‘yong demokrasya, eh wala,” the presidential candidate said.
(The failure to provide jobs for the people. Our people have demands for land reform. Though land reform was already agreed upon, it never happened. Social services, freedom, and democracy – they were all gone.)
The labor leader first mentioned his plan to solve the rebellion during the presidential forum of Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas early this month. De Guzman then said that if he becomes president, he will meet the demands of the rebels on land reform and injustice to solve the decades-long insurgency.
De Guzman, during the SMNI debate, also mentioned that he would abolish the NTF-ELCAC. The labor leader also said he would revoke the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States if he becomes the commander-in-chief.
SMNI, also a platform for the red-tagging officials of NTF ELCAC, devoted a segment to talking about counterinsurgency efforts but did not at all discuss the dangers of red-tagging, nor the anti-terror law. – Rappler.com
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