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Thursday, April 25, 2024

UN human rights rapporteur seeks ELCAC abolition

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A United Nations special rapporteur called on the government to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for red-tagging community and indigenous people’s leaders.

“I met with a number of CSOs (civil society organizations) and IPOs (indigenous peoples’ organizations) who told me horrific stories ofhow they’ve been treated. It is clear it is operating beyond its original mandate and is red tagging people from the community and the IPs,” said UN human rights and climate change expert Ian Fry.

“There is no reasonable response that ELCAC can say to the fact that I’ve heard stories of torture, disappearance and EJK of people. This is totally unacceptable. It seems the government has lost control of this military organization and is moving beyond what is considered reasonable,” Fry added.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Wednesday asserted thegovernment’s independence in solving its problems as he rejected Fry’s call.

“They should not meddle in the internal mechanism of the Philippines which is effective in achieving its goals,” Remulla said.

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National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año, who is concurrent vice chairman of the NTF-ELCAC, said the agency takes strong exception to Fry’s push to disband the task force.

“Fry, in his capacity as a UNSR on a country visit, has been given thefreedom to move and inquire on matters related to his mandate. But apparently, due to reasons beyond us, he has not exercised this to its full potential. In the interest of fairness and justice, he should have raised his concerns with us to ensure that he has a full appreciation of the body’s mandate, operations, and overall directions. Sadly, even if he had issues on the NTF-ELCAC that are relevant to his report, he did not find time to do so,” Año said in a statement.

“We could have helped him define it in his study. Specifically, we would have been able to provide valuable inputs on how the NTF-ELCAC has brought peace and development in far-flung communities, many of which are indigenous cultural communities greatly affected by the impact of climate change, apart from being victims of violent extremists and terrorists,” he added.

Fry said instead of keeping the task force, the government may establish a truth and reconciliation process “to deal with the harm that has been caused by the military in the community.”

“There are clearly people who have suffered dramatically as a consequence of the persecution of environmental human rights defenders and there needs to be a process to review the effects of the actions of the military,” he said.

The UN official said the Philippines ranks only second to Brazil as the worst place in the world as far as the treatment of environmental rights defenders is concerned.

“I think that’s going to seriously affect the international reputation of the Philippines if that continues and if they don’t initiate a process to resolve that rapidly,” he said.

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