National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (PNA file photo) 

MANILA – National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) vice-chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr. expressed support to the 12 cluster heads of the anti-insurgency body who were earlier sued by the Makabayan Bloc and its allies for allegedly violating various provisions of the Omnibus Election Code.

"As the National Security Adviser and Vice Chair of the NTF-ELCAC, I am expressing my support for the twelve national clusters heads of the Task Force. The NTF-ELCAC, through its corresponding cluster heads, has been legitimately upholding its mandate of protecting the Republic against the threats posed by the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG)," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Esperon was referring to the NTF-ELCAC cluster heads, namely: 

*Strategic Communication (StratCom) Cluster Head Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy;

*Sectoral Unification, Capacity Building and Empowerment (SUCBEM), Localized Peace Engagement (LPE), Basic Services (BS) and Local Government Empowerment (LGE) Clusters Head Undersecretary Marlo L. Iringan;

*Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management (SAKM) Cluster Head Director General Alex Paul I. Monteagudo;

*Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment (PRLE) Cluster Head Deputy Director General Gabriel Luis R. Quisumbing;

*Infrastructure and Resource Management (IRM) Cluster Head Undersecretary Maximo L. Carvajal and Assistant Secretary Nonita S. Caguioa;

*Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS) Cluster Head Undersecretary Cesar B. Yano;

*E-CLIP and Amnesty Program (EAP) Cluster Head Undersecretary Reynaldo B. Mapagu;

*International Engagement (IE) Cluster Head Undersecretary Brigido J. Dulay; and

*Legal Cooperation (LC) Cluster Head Justice Angelita V. Miranda.

The officials were charged by Makabayan Bloc and its party-lists allegedly with violations of Section 261 paragraphs E, I, and O of the Omnibus Election Code.

Some of the party-lists include Bayan Muna, Kabataan Party, Gabriela Women's Party, Anakpawis, and Act Teachers Party-lists.

The specific provisions state the following:

“Prohibited Acts. - The following shall be guilty of an election offense:

e. Threats, intimidation, terrorism, use of fraudulent device or other forms of coercion...

i. Intervention of public officers and employee…

o. Use of public funds, money deposited in trust, equipment, facilities owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign.”

"I take this opportunity to state unequivocally that the NTF-ELCAC does not engage in the business of red-tagging and red-baiting. We see this as a futile attempt at disinformation and deception against a legal organ of the state tasked with safeguarding the national interest," Esperon said.

"However, I take note also of the fact that these party-lists have pending and ongoing cases in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as well as in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City. Reports from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) have indicated that Gabriela, Gabriela, Inc., and Gabriela Women's Party List used their names interchangeably and that Gabriela is receiving Belgian financial support, through Belgian accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs)," he added.

The NTF-ELCAC vice chair also said these Belgian NGOs were subjected to external financial audit by the international accounting firm, contracted by the Belgian government, to audit or to review the Programs 2014-2016 and 2017-2021.

"This is a clear violation of Section 2 Paragraph 5, Article 9(C) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which provides that political parties which receive financial assistance from any foreign governments and their agencies, can have their registration with the Comelec cancelled. Rule 32 Section 8 (D) of the Comelec Rules of Procedure likewise states that receiving support from any foreign government is one of the grounds for the cancellation of the registration of any political party," he added.

Esperon also said Kabataan Party also has a pending case in the Comelec as it violated Rule 32 Section 8 (D) of the Comelec Rules of Procedure.

And as such, the party-list also violated Section 6 (2) of the Republic Act No. 7941, also known as the Party-list System Act which states “It advocates violence or unlawful means to seek its goal,” it said.

Esperon said Kabataan Party was also charged with violating was the Article VIII, Section 61 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines which states “Any organized group of persons seeking registration as a national or regional political party may file with the Commission a verified petition attaching thereto its constitution and by-laws, platform or program of government and such other relevant information as may be required by the Commission...”.

He added that the case filed against Kabataan Party was derived from the testimonies of former members of the New People's Army (NPA) who have attested to the felonious schemes being employed by these front organizations to fund their cause.

"Again, the Makabayan Bloc shows their duplicitous nature by manipulating jurisprudence to suit their needs. While they willfully and repeatedly violate the laws regulating organizations, they now take advantage of the same legal system to press charges against the NTF-ELCAC in order to muddle their own legal burdens. The irony is not lost on us," Esperon said.

He added that he welcomes these fabricated charges against the NTF-ELCAC as the body looks forward in debunking Makabayan Bloc’s bogus allegations in a court setting.

Esperon said this is very useful as this will expose the deception and hypocrisy regularly practiced by these party-list groups.

On Wednesday, these NTF-ELCAC cluster heads signed and filed their counter-affidavits on their complaint against them.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)