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UN experts recommend dissolution of ‘outdated’ NTF-ELCAC

Two Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations (UN)  recommend the dissolution of the National Task Force to Eliminate Local Armed Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for the harm it has caused to the rights of the Filipino people.

On 2 January, after a 10-day investigation, Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC which she said is “outdated” and “the promoter” of red-tagging. Khan also recommended “unblocking” or removing restrictions against progressive websites imposed by the reactionary state.

Even though the Marcos government insists that it has no policy that promotes red-tagging, Khan said that there is clear evidence that it is being practiced by state security forces as part of their ‘counter-terrorism’ strategy.

These recommendations come from Khan’s dialogue with various media groups and other democratic sectors, and even with state officials and armed forces. She also visited imprisoned journalist Frenchie May Cumpio and two others jailed in Tacloban.

Besides Manila, Khan went to the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Tacloban and Davao. Democratic organizations welcomed her and launched pickets and discussions regarding Khan’s arrival in the Philippines.

Khan said, “NTF-ELCAC was established about six years ago in a different context. It is outdated. It does not take into account the ongoing prospects of peace negotiations.”

Before her, Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, also recommended the dismantling of the agency on November 2023, to uphold and defend human rights in the context of climate change. Like Khan, Fry met with various democratic sectors in the country.

“I met with civil organizations who told me horrific stories on how they were treated,” Fry reported. “And in my recommendation to the government, I have suggested that they disband the NTF-ELCAC because it is clear that (it) is operating beyond its original mandate.” He spoke of entire communities being red-tagged, and allegations that “private financial interest (is) driving NTF-ELCAC to do this.”

Originally published in