Marcos says he won’t abolish NTF-ELCAC, denies its history of red-tagging

Dwight de Leon

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Marcos says he won’t abolish NTF-ELCAC, denies its history of red-tagging

'DISBAND NTF-ELCAC.' Human rights advocates stage a protest at the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency headquarters in Quezon City on December 5, 2022.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. says government officials are not engaging in red-tagging activities, even though the NTF-ELCAC's claims have been thoroughly documented

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shunned calls to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), after a Supreme Court (SC) ruling that warned of the dangers of red-tagging invited renewed scrutiny of the task force.

In an ambush interview in Cagayan de Oro City on Thursday, May 16, Marcos said he sees no reason to get rid of the NTF-ELCAC.

Ang sinasabi, dahil mayroon raw red-tagging na ginagawa. Hindi naman gobyerno gumagawa noon. Kung sino-sinong iba ang gumagawa noon (They want to abolish NTF-ELCAC due to supposed red-tagging activities. The government does not do that, but other people),” he said.

Marcos says he won’t abolish NTF-ELCAC, denies its history of red-tagging

That is untrue, as instances of red-tagging by NTF-ELCAC officials have been thoroughly documented since it was formed under the Rodrigo Duterte administration in 2018.

Just last year, the Ombudsman reprimanded former NTF-ELCAC officials Lorraine Badoy and Antonio Parlade Jr. in an administrative case related to red-tagging.

The NTF-ELCAC has also actively sought the disqualification from elections of leftist organizations on the suspicion that they are fronts of the communist movement, but the task force has repeatedly failed.

In a decision publicized on May 8, the SC finally defined red-tagging as a threat, an act of intimidation to “discourage subversive activities.”

Since the ruling came out, numerous human rights groups have asked Marcos to publicly endorse the High Court resolution.

“This decision acknowledges the suffering of countless victims of this government policy,” said Carlos Conde, senior Asia researcher of Human Rights Watch.

National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya later argued that the SC decision did not directly hold the NTF-ELCAC responsible for red-tagging.

“The SC never said that the NTF-ELCAC is a notorious red-tagger. The NTF-ELCAC is not a party to the case nor was it impleaded, so why it is now being linked to this decision boggles the mind. It’s non sequitur,” Malaya was quoted as saying.

Not going anytime soon

The NTF-ELCAC, however, continues to have the support of the President, who says the task force helps in quelling internal security threats.

Tatapusin namin kasi mayroon pa yatang iilan na barangay na hindi pa natapos. May iilan pa na mga returnees na hindi pa nabigyan ng tulong (We have to finish this because there are still villages which have not been cleared of rebels. There are still returnees that have not been given assistance),” Marcos said.

In February, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan, during her visit to the Philippines, called on the Marcos administration to pull the plug on the NTF-ELCAC, saying it is no longer relevant due to the revival of peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

“The abolition will not only address some of the most critical drivers of red-tagging, but it will also allow this administration to modernize peace-building approaches based on this changing political landscape,” Khan had said.

To abolish the NTF-ELCAC, Marcos has to scrap Executive Order No. 70, the Duterte-era document that institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach in ending local communist armed conflict. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.