Groups back Robredo’s plan to ditch NTF-ELCAC; task force execs scorn VP
MANILA, Philippines — Left-leaning groups are backing Vice President Leni Robredo’s plan to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) if she becomes president. But an official of the panel slammed her for being “ignorant” of the task force’s “mission and vision” to end the decades-long insurgency.
Bayan Muna chairperson and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares said in a statement Wednesday that Robredo’s view on NTF-Elcac is correct since the task group was allegedly used to harass and attack administration critics, including leftists who were red-tagged or linked to the communist rebellion.
“It is about time that this agency [is] abolished. Formed out of President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s draconian Executive Order No. 70, it has been at the forefront of the brutal campaign to vilify human rights defenders, activists, the political opposition, members of media, and all others who are considered enemies of the Duterte administration,” Colmenares pointed out.
“The NTF-Elcac’s proposed P28 billion budget for barangay pork-barrel projects during an election year is particularly odious. That huge funding has nothing to do with addressing the roots of the armed conflict and everything to do with bolstering the candidacy of the administration bets,” the former lawmaker also said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes also dared other presidential aspirants to clarify their stance on the NTF-Elcac, especially that the Senate itself slashed the agency’s proposed 2022 funding from P28 billion to just P4 billion.
“Meanwhile, the Senate’s move to #DefundNTFELCAC by P24B is timely given the needs of pandemic response and econ recovery. Expect the red-tagging of the VP and the Senate to escalate as a result of their position,” Reyes added.
But NTF-Elcac officials scorned Robredo, who has formalized her bid to run for president in the 2022 polls, over her intentions for the anti-insurgency body.
NTF-Elcac spokesperson and presidential communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy “reiterated” in a statement that Robredo’s stance against the establishment of their office “only showed how ignorant she is about the mission and vision of the government in ending the local communist armed conflict through the whole-of-nation approach.”
She added that Robredo’s “unfounded claims against NTF-Elcac” have insulted many workers in the government.
“You insulted quite a lot of public servants who are doing hard work, who are really putting real manhours and are making a big difference for our people,” claimed Badoy, who also said that the Vice President is “not a true opposition but an obstructionist to the welfare of many people.”
NTF-Elcac’s regional office in Western Visayas said Robredo’s views are anchored on misconceptions about their programs, even pointing out that her call for a whole-of-nation approach to fight insurgency is already being done.
Regional Task Force 6-Elcac (RTF-Elcac) spokesperson Floserim Chris Gonzales also warned that defunding NTF-Elcac or totally abolishing it would only benefit the communist group.
“Kayo (Robredo) lang yata ang hindi nakakaalam nito. Sana nakisali rin kayo sa mga Serbisyo Caravan na itinaguyod ng NTF-Elcac. Para sa inyong kaalaman, may Barangay Development Program din ang NTF-Elcac,” Gonzales said.
“Under this initiative, CTG (Communist Terrorist Group) cleared barangays are provided 20 million pesos for projects that the people in barangay deem necessary to improve their quality of life,” he added.
At the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, hopes were high that the armed conflict would finally end considering his storied relations with the communist forces and since Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison used to be Duterte’s professor.
But distrust damaged such expectation as both sides claimed non-adherence to ceasefire declarations, and made peace talks a grim possibility under Duterte’s term.
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