Karapatan outraged at Marcos’ refusal to abolish NTF-ELCAC; Cebu unionists reveal rampant gov’t red-tagging

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. refused to abolish government’s anti-insurgency task force and human rights and labor groups are outraged.

Human rights group Karapatan assailed Marcos’s decision, saying the president’s declaration that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) does not engage is red-tagging is “rank hypocrisy and denialism.”

“No matter how much he tries, however, Marcos Jr. cannot wash his hands of responsibility for the escalating violations of human rights and international humanitarian law consequent to the NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging mania,” Karapatan said in a statement.

As commander-in-chief, Marcos Jr. chairs the NTF-ELCAC and approves the counter-insurgency doctrines that drive the agency’s frenzied red- and terror-tagging, the group said.

Marcos told reporters in a Cagayan de Oro ambush interview Thursday there are no plans to abolish the task force accused of being a notorious red-tagger, even as the Supreme Court described the practice as a danger to life, security and liberty of victims.

“Bakit lagi niyong tinatanong sa akin iyan? Wala namang dahilan kung bakit natin tatanggalin iyan,” Marcos quipped. (Why do you always ask me that? There’s no reason for us to abolish it.)

Marcos denied that the NTF-ELCAC as well as the government in general engages in red-tagging.

Karapatan however pointed out that United Nations Special Rapporteurs (UNSR) who conducted official visits in the Philippines have recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC because of its red-tagging practices.

 UNSR on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Irene Khan and UNSR on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Climate Change Ian Fry made the recommendations last February and November, respectively.

“Marcos Jr. can deny the truth all he can. But the Filipino people and the world see through his lies and his hypocrisy,” Karapatan said.

Red-tagged unionists, development workers charged

In Cebu, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chapter Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo (AMA Sugbo) condemned the filing of antiterrorism-related charges against labor leaders and development workers it said are victims of government’s red-tagging drive.

In a press conference Wednesday, AMA Sugbo said the continuous effort of the Department of Justice’s Terror Task Force, in connivance with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command, “defies the rule of logic” in alleging the respondents transmit funds to underground revolutionary groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

For one, the charges include AMA Sugbo chairperson Jaime Paglinawan Sr. who is not an officer nor a staff member of Community Empowerment Resource Network (CERNET) named as the main respondent of the alleged Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (RA 10168) violation charges, the labor group said.

AMA Sugbo said that prior to the filing of charges, Paglinawan was one of those arrested without a warrant at the gate of the University of the Philippines-Cebu for protesting the passage of the repressive Anti-Terrorism Act on June 5, 2020.

Days ago, several posters red-tagging AMA-SUGBO-KMU, Anakbayan, and Bayan Central Visayas have been seen around CICC and UP Cebu Campus, the group also revealed.

Last May 1, International Labor Day, Police Reqional Office-7 distributed red-tagging materials to rally-goers, it added.

AMA Sugbo said the “relentless attacks on Paglinawan and other development workers…are anti-poor and anti-people.”

“AMA-SUGBO-KMU…dares the Philippine government to focus on what is truly needed by the people right now, and this is to allocate the budget for the basic services necessary for everyone, instead of attacking NGOs and progressive leaders who are truly serving the needs of its people,” it said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)