Duterte praises NTF-ELCAC, says it can wipe out insurgency if given two more years

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte praises NTF-ELCAC, says it can wipe out insurgency if given two more years
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with key government officials at the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on June 6, 2022.
Presidential photo / Joey Dalumpines

MANILA, Philippines — The decades-old communist insurgency would almost be wiped out if the government's anti-insurgency task force is given two more years to operate, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

Speaking during a meeting with some officials in Davao City last Monday, Duterte heaped praises on the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), saying it has achieved success in addressing rebellion.

"The ELCAC, the brainchild of General (National Security Adviser Hermogenes) Esperon (Jr.) is a very good one and it can really help the country on the insurgency problem," Duterte said.

"The whole-of-government approach, once it is maintained, it would be easier (to address the problem).  With the way ELCAC is running, give it another two years, (insurgency) would almost be wiped out," he added.

The NFT-ELCAC, which has drawn flak for linking activists, universities, and journalists to communist rebels, was created through Executive Order no. 70 signed by Duterte in 2018. The task force was meant to provide "an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach" in attaining "inclusive and sustainable peace."

The whole-of-nation approach aims to address the root causes of rebellion, disturbances, tensions and other armed conflicts and threats by "prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of the country's peace agenda."

Some groups are calling for the abolition or defunding of the task force, citing its red-baiting of personalities and groups critical of the government. Human rights groups claimed that red-baiting, known in the Philippines as "red-tagging," equates to a death sentence and encourages abusive practices.

Officials have defended the task force, saying its abolition would allow the rebels to step up their recruitment activities and hamper the implementation of development programs in conflicted and isolated areas.

In the same meeting, Duterte called communist rebels "terrorists" and accused them of killing barangay chiefs who do not share their beliefs.

"How many did you kill? I'm addressing now the terrorists. You are terrorists now in the in the eyes of everybody in government, especially me," the president said.

"Is there any case pursued by the human rights, international or the local, to at least equalize the situation by also going after the terrorists who are criminals?" he added.

Duterte said communist rebels have lost their revolutionary fervor and are now extorting money from businesses.

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