Robredo wants NTF-ELCAC abolished

Vice President Leni Robredo announces in a press conference that she will run for president in the 2022 elections. Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo, who is running for president in the 2022 elections, said Tuesday she wants President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-communist task force to be abolished.

“There is really a duplication of many efforts, the duplication of the mandate. And it has to be abolished,” Robredo said, referring to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict which Duterte created in 2017.

She said she fears that the NTF-ELFAC will be used to launch a campaign similar to that of Oplan Tokhang, the government’s anti-drug program which led to the killings of thousands of drug suspects.

“My biggest fear here is that this will become Tokhang again. Magiging Tokhang Version 2 in the sense that the mandate given to the body will be abused, will be used to harass people,” Robredo said partly in Filipino.

The vice president said there must be a rejection of the militarist approach to ending armed conflict and a shift towards more holistic ways to address its roots.

“This cannot be solved by using a purely militaristic approach. We have to go to the root of the problem of insurgency to be able to give a more long term solution to the same,” she said.

In August, at the height of fresh lockdowns brought about by a surge in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant, Robredo suggested suspending the release of funding for the NTF-ELCAC and rechanneling this for cash aid for Filipinos who were most affected by the mobility restrictions.

This did not sit well with National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC chairperson Hermogenes Esperon who dismissed calls like Robredo’s as “irrational” and “self-serving political statements.”

Progressive groups and some senators have long been pushing to defund NTF-ELCAC over its persistent and often baseless red-tagging of dissidents, which human rights organizations warn could cause harm.

On Tuesday, Senate finance committee chairperson Sen. Sonny Angara announced that senators are proposing a P24-billion budget cut to the anti-communist task force and would leave it with only P4 billion for 2022.

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