Sara Duterte is new co-vice chair of NTF-ELCAC

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Sara Duterte, concurrently education secretary, has been designated as the co-vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Duterte accepted the designation during the NTF-ELCAC’s executive meeting on Wednesday, National Security Advisor Eduardo Año said in a press briefing at Malacañang.

“Her unstilting commitment to the cause of the NTF-ELCAC will undoubtedly be valuable to the task force, and we thank her for accepting the challenge,” he said.

Año added that Duterte, as co-vice chairperson of the government’s anti-communist task force, will help supervise “regional peace and development” in the different regions. 

Año said in the same press briefing that Marcos’ “marching orders” to the task force is to “sustain (the) whole-of-nation approach to peace and development to prevent communist-terrorist (sic), their front organizations and other lawless elements from recruiting and gaining power.”

ILO case

Karapatan Secretary-General Tinay Palabay said in an initial statement that Duterte’s designation shows the “greater need” to abolish the task force, which has been “responsible for the numerous cases of human rights violations.”

Complaints against former officials of NTF-ELCAC have been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman over their red-tagging, although the graft buster office has yet to resolve them.

Duterte, meanwhile, has previously issued statements in her capacity as DepEd secretary criticizing the Alliance of Concerned Teachers for allegedly being supportive of the ideologies espoused by communist groups.

These statements prompted the organization to write to the International Labor Organization urging them to intervene amid the possible violation of rights being in her remarks red-tagging the group.

When asked about the ILO case filed by ACT, Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda, a representative of the NTF-ELCAC Legal Cooperation Cluster, responded that red-tagging is legally non-existent, citing court decisions that junked several pleas for writs of amparo filed by groups who said they have experienced state-sponsored harassment.

“There's no such word as red-tagging. It's legally non-existent. As I've been voicing out in the legal cooperation cluster, there has been several writs of amparo filed before this admin, during [administration of former President Rodrigo] Duterte, and all were thrown out,” Miranda said.

She added that in one of the cases, the Court of Appeals said no that the petitioners didn’t come up with the substantial evidence required.

In 2021, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo acknowledged the need to adapt to changing times while protecting peoples’ rights as he confirmed that the Supreme Court is reviewing its rules on the extraordinary writs of kalikasan and amparo, or the protection writ.

In an open letter to Gesmundo, 103 civic groups, including domestic rights alliance Karapatan, called for a review and revise rules on the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data.

This is “to ensure that human rights defenders are afforded timely, relevant and comprehensive legal protection from threats to their lives, security and liberty, including red-tagging and gendered threats received by women and queer human rights defenders,” they told the chief justice. — with Kristine Joy Patag

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