VP Sara supports NTF-ELCAC despite stand vs. peace talks with Reds

By Priam Nepomuceno

December 6, 2023, 2:52 pm

MANILA – Vice President Sara Duterte remains a key ally and partner of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) despite her different stand on developments in the country's peace process with communist rebels, an official said Wednesday.

"VP Sara is not only an ally of NTF-ELCAC, she is the vice chairperson of the NTF-ELCAC and the second highest official of our land, just like what like I mentioned a while ago, our leaders and even observers may differ in their views regarding this amnesty and the possibility of the peace process. But of course meron naman tayong (we have a) body to synthesize all of these things and iisa naman yung objective natin -- (and we only have one objective and that is to) to finally end local communist armed conflict in our country," NTF-ELCAC Secretariat Executive Director, Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. in an online press conference.

This came as Duterte expressed reservations on the exploratory talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

She also called the Nov. 23 joint communique on the measure signed by the two sides in Oslo, Norway an "agreement with the devil."

Torres, however, said the Vice President's opinion would be seriously considered in the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) and in the discussions of the "peace efforts as we move forward and find ways to finally end armed conflict in our country".

He said the tasking of the NTF-ELCAC remains the same despite the exploratory talks and that it will continue to find ways to resolve root causes of insurgency in the Philippines.

"And that is resolving yung mga problema natin (our problems) on poverty, problems on education, on health and other basic services that has to be brought to the conflict-affected areas, so patuloy yung pati na yung (and so our) local peace engagement natin (will continue) and other transformation program for former rebels na (which) up to now (have benefitted) 39,000 (former rebels)," he added.

Meanwhile, National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, who is also NTF-ELCAC StratCom Cluster Chair, said the objective of the Vice President and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has always been the same.

"Definitely Vice President Sara is an ally, there are just differences of opinion but as mentioned by Usec (Undersecretary) Jun Torres she is (co-)vice chairman of the NTF-ELCAC and the NTF-ELCAC's main purpose is to end local communist armed conflict," he added. (PNA)