Rights groups support UN expert’s recommendations to abolish NTF-ELAC, repeal Anti-Terror Act – Bulatlat

July 3, 2024


Various groups protesting at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) calling for the abolition of NTF-ELCAC. (File photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Human rights watchdog Karapatan reiterated their call to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as well as the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 after former Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry, submitted his report during the 56th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In his report to the UNHRC, Fry recommended that the government should “disband the NTF-ELCAC, as it is misusing its powers and targeting environmental human rights defenders and indigenous peoples.”

He also recommended a full investigation of the past operations of the NTF-ELCAC and that the proposed inquiry by the Commission on Human Rights on red-tagging should be strongly supported.

Fry also said that the government should revoke the ATA and develop a truth and reconciliation process to allow people who are wrongly accused under the law to seek redress for the harm that has been inflicted upon them by the misuse of the said law.

In a statement, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said “Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s National Security Policy, his counterinsurgency blueprint implemented through State security forces and the NTF-ELCAC, drives the continuing increase in the number of human rights and international humanitarian law violations.”

Karapatan said that they have monitored at least 112 human rights defenders facing criminal complaints or charges under the ATA and under the Republic Act No. 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.

Out of the 112, thirty-two are detained on these charges. Another 32 were also arbitrarily designated as terrorists including peace consultants, indigenous rights defenders and a community health worker.

In his report, Fry said that the systematic red-tagging of the NTF-ELCAC and the Philippines Defence Force of indigenous peoples and environmental human rights defenders is a “clear violation of the right to freedom of expression and for some, their right to life.”

“The Special Rapporteur also heard that various clergy and humanitarian workers have been falsely accused under the Anti-Terrorism Act. They reported that their bank accounts have been frozen under terrorism financing provisions,” Fry’s report read.

“It appears that the NTF-ELCAC is using its powers to protect key economic interests in the country. This has nothing to do with anti-terrorism or anti-communism. The gross overreaction to people trying to defend their right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is totally unacceptable,” Fry’s report added.

Read: ‘Envi defenders subjected to intensified attacks in Marcos Jr.’s first weeks in office’

In a statement, Daisy Macapanpan, an elderly woman community leader violently arrested in 2022 in Laguna affirmed Fry’s report.

“I was arrested and charged with rebellion for speaking out against the Ahunan Pump Storage Project in my hometown. This pattern persists from the previous to the present.” Macapanpan said in a statement. She is part of the Protect Sierra Madre for the People Network’s secretariat.

Read: Arrest of environment activist linked to Ahunan dam project

MC Mace Sulayao of Defend Panay Network and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente – Youth meanwhile lamented, “The Philippine government tried to invalidate the Tumanduk indigenous people’s claims, saying that they were part of a ‘CSO that is openly critical of the dam project.’ However, they (the government) did not respond to the issues the community raised regarding the Jalaur Dam.

“For the families of the victims, the government claims that the massacre and arrests of the Tumanduk people are unrelated to their opposition (to the dam) adds insult to injury. Local communities have reported being harassed to silence over the construction of the dam,” Sulayao added.

Read: The struggles and aspirations of Tumandok in Panay

Both Macapanpan and Sulayao are in Geneva as part of the delegation of Philippine UPR Watch who are engaging at the 56th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Jonila Castro, advocacy officer of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, meanwhile, challenged the Marcos Jr. administration to allow more visits of the UN Special Rapporteur and other independent experts to the Philippines. Castro said that the UN experts should also look into the bombings in communities in Kalinga, Cagayan Valley, Lanao del Sur, and Negros Occidental.

Read: Groups alarmed over Masbate bombing exercises
Read: Rights groups denounce bombing of communities in Abra, Ilocos Sur
Read: A week after military bombing, Aurora residents suffer from trauma

Rights groups expressed their gratitude to Fry’s efforts to learn about the impacts of climate change in the Philippines and for exposing the truth from the ground.

Palabay on the other hand calls on the international community to monitor the situation in the Philippines and extend solidarity to victims and communities “who bear the brunt of Marcos Jr.’s fascist attacks against the Filipino people.”

“As the Marcos Jr. regime maintains the NTF-ELCAC and its rabid implementation of the ATA, it exposes its hypocrisy on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Along with its stubborn adherence to the draconian policies of the past administrations especially the Duterte regime, its disinterest in pursuing justice for victims of human rights violations is clear and present proof of its fascist character and approach,” Palabay said.

Fry’s report was presented by the current Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Elisa Morgera at the UN Human Rights Council 56th session in Geneva. Fry resigned in December last year. (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)





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