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NTF-ELCAC set to be improved, strengthened

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
NTF-ELCAC set to be improved, strengthened
Incoming National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos speaks at a roundtable event in Ortigas, Pasig on Thursday, June 25, 2022.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Contrary to stories circulating on social media that the government is abandoning the previous administration’s approach in dealing with the insurgency problem, President Marcos will keep, improve and strengthen the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Deputy National Security Adviser Rommel Banlaoi said yesterday that efforts to put an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) – not only through military means, but by addressing the root causes of armed rebellion like poverty, injustice and lack of development – will continue.

Speaking at the Pandesal Forum in Quezon City, Banlaoi said social media posts claiming that NTF-ELCAC will be abolished are simply untrue.

He said the program will be continued and strengthened by the Marcos government to sustain gains considering the task force’s past successes.

“We will intensify our efforts in order to further improve how to implement NTF-ELCAC at the grassroots level, especially in those vulnerable communities, rural and impoverished communities,” Banlaoi said, noting that the improved version will focus on villages and barangays needing government attention.

He noted that the stronger program still vice-chaired by National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos aims at having measurable targets with intensified local government unit (LGU) participation, strengthened community-based approach and private sector participation which retains a whole-of-society approach “for our country to really attain inclusive peace and sustainable development.”

Banlaoi said improvements in the NTF-ELCAC will also include addressing limitations and challenges as he called on the public to let the government know about issues, abuses, illicit activities and other errors, because the government has no intention of using the NTF-ELCAC for such since the only goal is to end a 50-year-old communist armed insurgency – the largest and longest in the world.

Asked if peace talks are an option, he said the same is still being discussed “but we need peace” because insurgency is an “obstacle to economic development” that the National Security Council (NSC) hopes will not last another six years.

With only about 2,000 armed NPA members remaining across the country, Banlaoi again appealed to communist rebels to return to the fold of government and form part of overall governance.

According to him, the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law means that it is not really illegal to be part of the Communist Party of the Philippines because what the government is after is the NPA, even though the CPP, NPA and National Democratic Front (NDF) is a complex trinity.

Echoing what Carlos had earlier said, Banlaoi reiterated that red-tagging or labelling is not good because tagging people or groups as red, yellow or pink is lazy and red-tagging is a product of labelling and stereotyping.

He said NTF-ELCAC will also be more cautious and more prudent, especially with the Anti-Terror Law, and will definitely run after violators of International Humanitarian Law and other human rights violations.

Banlaoi said he and Carlos are sensitive when it comes to human rights abuses, so they assure the public that “principles of human rights will be observed and implemented” in addressing the country’s insurgency problem.

He stressed that legal organizations or fronts are OK, including lawful street protests, as such groups are actually encouraged to do more legal activities.

However, he emphasized that “if there are individuals inside the organizations proven to support armed activities, the law will really run after you” because it is a crime to “support, facilitate, encourage, train and finance armed activities of the NPA.”?He said Carlos and Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. have a very good working relationship as both are working together to show that the NTF-ELCAC is “not just a program of government but a program of the Filipino for fellow Filipinos.”

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