• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

UN SR Calls for the Abolition of NTF ELCAC

February 2, 2024

In a press conference today, February 2, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan concludes her official visit to the Philippines by publicly stating her initial recommendations to the PH government. Like former UN SR on Climate Change Ian Fry, Ms. Khan also recommends the abolition of the notorious National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

On January 26, CPA along with other groups were able to attend a consultation with Ms. Khan. Cases of FPIC violations, red tagging, cyberlibel, and other cases of human rights violations in the Cordillera were presented to her. The 4 CPA leaders designated as terrorists were also present in the consultation, with Sarah Abellon-Alikes taking the lead in speaking on their behalf.

We commend Ms. Khan for carefully noting our narratives and demands amid the aggressive attempts of government agencies to belie the real situation of democracy in the country. We believe that the government will again retaliate against her strong recommendations, but they can no longer deny how deep and far-reaching the state-perpetrated violations are.

Amid a series of domestic and international pressure against the NTF-ELCAC, with Ms. Khan the most recent one, the government indicating the possibility of transforming it to a "unity and peace task force" can be interpreted as a mere farce since the counter-insurgency framework remains the same.

We hope the UN will act on the said recommendations forwarded by 2 UN independent experts. More importantly, we hope they give significant attention to the state policies, such as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, that have been so far targeting civil society and other government dissenters.

For CPA, the ATA, premised by prior incidents of red tagging and terrorist tagging, has been used to designate our leaders erroneously and arbitrarily as terrorists. With limited legal remedies, we continue to experience injuries following a terrorist designation. Bank accounts continue to be frozen, and families are still fearing for the safety of their loved ones who are vulnerable to extreme forms of fascist attacks.

The abolition of the NTF-ELCAC should come hand in hand with the repeal of the ATA, the policy that ultimately criminalizes our freedom to express.