Robredo says she backs NTF-ELCAC mandate, but 'careless' remarks put it in bad light

Robredo says she backs NTF-ELCAC mandate, but 'careless' remarks put it in bad light
Vice President Leni Robredo meets with the new AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Andres Centino and the AFP Joint Staff on November 26, 2021.
Office of the Vice President

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo said she supports the mandate of the President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-communist task force, but the “careless” statements of its members put the body in bad light.

The presidential aspirant, who previously called for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, assured the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a meeting Friday that she supports the government’s anti-insurgency campaign.

“I want to address the elephant in the room because I’ve been quoted many times already that I’m for the abolition of NTF ELCAC. And I want to emphasize today that I am all for the mandate and functions of ELCAC,” Robredo said.

For Robredo, the body's Barangay Development Program was the “best part of everything.” According to the task force, the program seeks to bring “development” to former conflict-ridden communities.

But the “careless statements” of some members of the NTF-ELCAC have cast the entire task force in bad light, Robredo said. 

“I’ve been on the receiving end of unfair accusations. I’ve been red-tagged and the red-tagging has been baseless. I am one with you in stopping insurgency by addressing the core of these problems, and the peripheral issues surrounding it,” Robredo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Senators, including those allied with Robredo, slashed the budget of the anti-insurgency task force, leaving it with only P4 billion budget for next year.

Turnaround dismays groups

Robredo’s statement left groups and individuals who have been red-tagged and are working with activists arrested by agencies under the task force’s lead disappointed.

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares pointed out the actions of NTF-ELCAC “exacerbate, rather resolve, the roots of armed conflict.”

“May I respectfully point out to the vice president that the problem with the NTF-ELCAC cannot be merely attributed to its ‘careless members’ but to a systematic policy that includes harassment and attacks against anyone perceived to be left-leaning or critical of the administration,” the senatorial candidate said.

Rights watchdog Karapatan stressed that addressing the root causes of armed conflict cannot include violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“It should focus on breaking the chain of oppression and exploitation that has impoverished and shackled Filipinos. The way to go is through genuine political, economic and social reforms, the peace process, the exacting of accountability for State-perpetrated violations, and the meting out of justice,” its secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan urged Robredo to meet with victims of human rights violations and their families to “learn from their stories of horror and anguish” as well as with human rights defenders, religious people, journalists to “obtain information on the vast extent of the dangerous impact” of the task force.

For the Communist Party of the Philippines, Robredo’s expression of support to the mandate of NTF-ELCAC means she is “practically shutting the doors to the peace negotiations.” The vice president is for localized peace talks with communist rebels,

“Robredo has served as one of the more credible of the anti-Duterte presidential candidates and has strengthened the people’s determination to fight Duterte’s fascist tyranny. Taking back her previous call for the NTF-ELCAC's abolition does not enhance such credibility and weakens her ability to unite all forces against Duterte’s tyranny,” CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena said. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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