MANILA – Most Filipinos have supported the continued operations of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) under the watch of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., according to PAHAYAG 2022 Second Quarter Survey published by PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. on Friday.

PUBLiCUS, in its survey from June 16 to 22, found that around 56 percent of 1,500 respondents "approve or strongly approve" the NTF-ELCAC's continuation.

Only 13 percent said they "disapprove or strongly disapprove," while 31 percent were ambivalent on the matter.

“Continuation of the NTF-ELCAC under the Marcos Jr. administration was supported by a comfortable majority of our respondents," PUBliCUS Executive Director Aureli Sinsuat said in a statement.

The NTF-ELCAC, established by virtue of Executive Order 70 signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, is mandated to pursue a "whole-of-nation" approach to counter communist insurgency and attain "inclusive and sustainable peace.”

The anti-insurgency task force is chaired by the President and vice-chaired by the National Security Adviser (NSA).

NSA's role a 'game changer'

Meanwhile, Sinsuat said the appointment of NSA Clarita Carlos in the NTF-ELCAC is a "game changer," given her stance to stop the supposed red-tagging of the NTF-ELCAC.

“Notably, NSA Carlos has publicly questioned the use of red-tagging as a means to combat the communist insurgency. In this context, it is clear that the appointment of Dr. Carlos as National Security Adviser is a game changer because the NTF-ELCAC will be much less likely to engage in red-tagging under her leadership,” Sinsuat said.

Carlos, a retired political science professor at the University of the Philippines, earlier said the NTF-ELCAC's focus should be on human security to address the roots of communist insurgency.

Sinsuat said Carlos’ plan to focus on human security is "in line with the whole-of-nation approach" that needs to be "efficient[ly] and effective[ly] implemented by the NTF-ELCAC, as provided by EO 70."

"As provided by the EO itself, the whole-of-nation approach addresses the root causes of insurgency by improving the delivery of basic services and social development packages to conflict-affected communities while facilitating societal inclusivity and broader cross-sectoral participation in pursuit of the country’s peace agenda,” he said.

He issued the statement, after the survey showed that approval of the NTF-ELCAC’s continuation was lower compared to four other flagship programs of the Duterte administration mentioned in the poll.

According to the survey, 79 percent of the respondents approved the continuation of the "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program, 73 percent backed the anti-narcotics campaign, 68 percent supported the independent foreign policy, and 64 percent gave their approval to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's transition.

“In recent months, NTF-ELCAC has received more negative publicity than the other Duterte flagship programs tested due to issues surrounding red-tagging. This may have had an impact on the NTF-ELCAC’s approval rating,” Sinsuat said.

Sinsuat also noted that the task force was formed to be a "conciliatory, consensus-building policy coordination body" and "not an intelligence agency designed to identify communist sympathizers."

"It will be interesting to observe whether the NTF-ELCAC will operate more in line with its original design under the Marcos Jr. administration,” he said.

Acting Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar on Thursday said security officials have yet to discuss the fate of the NTF-ELCAC.

Aguilar, nevertheless, said the AFP is hoping for the retention of the NTF-ELCAC, citing the significant gains against the guerilla fronts which have been reduced by almost 74 percent, as of June 30.

Senator Ronald de la Rosa earlier filed a measure institutionalizing the NTF-ELCAC to ensure the continuity of the task force's programs under the Marcos administration. (PNA)