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Bato calls UN expert who urged NTF-ELCAC abolition 'misinformed foreigner'

Bato calls UN expert who urged NTF-ELCAC abolition 'misinformed foreigner'

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Wednesday afternoon said United Nations Special Rapporteur Dr. Ian Fry is “one of the most misinformed foreigners” in the Philippines after the latter proposed the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the government’s controversial anti-insurgency arm.

The lawmaker issued the remark during the Senate plenary deliberations on the proposed 2024 budget of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), formerly called Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

It was Senator Francis Tolentino who raised Fry’s recommendation during the plenary deliberations, saying this is “seemingly intrusive misobservance” of a foreigner “Fry delving into our affairs as to how we should end communist insurgency.”

“Maybe this is one of the most misinformed foreigners who set foot in the country. Baka ang narinig niya lang na side ay doon lang sa kabilang side, di niya napakinggan ang gobyerno,” Dela Rosa said.

(Maybe he only heard the other side and he was not able to hear the government’s side.)

According to Dela Rosa, OPAPRU was not involved in the crafting of the UN expert on human rights and the environment’s report. Otherwise, he said, Fry would have had a different observation on NTF-ELCAC.

“Had they been involved, for sure magbabago ang paningin ng foreigner na iyon sa NTF-ELCAC. Kung in-involve nila ang OPAPRU, they will be informed accordingly,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa, a staunch supporter of the government’s anti-communist efforts, said NTF-ELCAC is “all about good governance and deliver of basic services to the communities and they are not involved in the armed confrontation with the enemies of the state.”

“So why are they lambasting the NTF-ELCAC? Maybe they are being fed with wrong information,” he went on.

The NTF-ELCAC has been hounded by accusations that it red-tags critics of the government and questions about its performance and funding. Last month, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) quit the task force's executive committee a month after joining it, after a survey by Caritas Philippines showing that 90% of respondents were against the CBCP joining the NTF-ELCAC.

The report said there was “fear” that the Church would be “cop-opted and used to legitimize” the task force’s alleged human rights violations.

Dela Rosa’s position was echoed by Tolentino, who said that the peace process has “fluid dynamics “that would involve not just local conditions, current events, even the appropriate resources, allocation of the government and other societal factors that probably would be beyond the comprehension of foreign observers going here.”

Earlier in the day, Fry held a media conference and recommended the abolition of NTF-ELCAC because it is operating with “impunity.”

“The NTF-ELCAC, I just get a sense it has moved beyond its mandates and usefulness and needs to be disbanded outright and the government needs to develop another approach to deal with the terrorism issues,” Fry said in a media briefing. 

“But it’s clear that this unit, it is operating with impunity and therefore needs to be abandoned,” he added. 

The NTF-ELCAC took exception to Fry's remarks and the report, which the agency said is “deemed incomplete.”

The task force also emphasized that they have invited Fry for a dialogue while he was conducting his report in the country. 

The UN expert’s report was also dismissed by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, saying they should not interfere with the affairs in the Philippines. — BM, GMA Integrated News