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Amnesty International joins call to abolish NTF-ELCAC

Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the government to dissolve the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Amnesty International Philippines Director Butch Olano expressed concern over the alleged misuse of the Anti-Terror Law and red-tagging. He said these two were being used to link journalists and human rights advocates to the communist insurgency.

Olano said that in March, the NTF-ELCAC allegedly red-tagged human rights groups Karapatan and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates.

“We reiterate our call made when the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Irene Khan, came. We support her call to actually dissolve the NTF-ELCAC,” he said.

In February, Khan asked for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC, calling it ''outdated'' since ''it does not take into account the ongoing prospects for peace negotiations.''

However, National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said it would “not be proper at this time” to abolish the NTF-ELCAC given two supervening events, such as the government’s “strategic victory” over the New People’s Army and the exploratory peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“Please take note that this is a 52-year old running insurgency. Now that we have reached this stage in the campaign, we feel it is improper to call for its abolition,'' Malaya told reporters in February.

The NTF-ELCAC was established in December 2018 by then-President Rodrigo Duterte to end “local armed communist conflict” in the country.

Since then, it has been repeatedly accused of red-tagging individuals and groups.

The Marcos administration has assured Khan that red-tagging is not a government policy.

Olano also urged the government to repeal or amend the Anti-Terrorism Act and ensure that it is consistent with international human rights law and standards and ''not used to unduly target those who are critical of the government.''

Amnesty International Philippines also called for a review of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, the passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill, the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill, and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Equality Bill, as well as a measure assisting families of drug war victims. — VBL, GMA Integrated News