NTF-ELCAC abolition inappropriate at this time – NSC exec

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

February 2, 2024, 6:39 pm

<p>National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya <em>(File photo)</em></p>

National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya (File photo)

MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has been a game changer in the country’s 52-year-old fight against communist terrorism and abolishing it would be an improper move for the government, an official of the National Security Council (NSC) said Friday.

This, after visiting United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan recommended the task force's termination.

“With the strategic victory over the New People’s Army (NPA) and the exploratory peace talks with CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front), it would not be proper at this time to abolish the NTF-ELCAC,” NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in a media forum.

Currently, there are only 1,500 armed regulars of the NPA and 11 weakened guerilla fronts, he added.

On Dec. 4, 2018, former President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 forming the NTF-ELCAC to respond and raise awareness of the ongoing communist rebellion in the country.

Department of Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez said they explained to Khan that the NTF-ELCAC is a creation of the government as an act of defense in the exercise of its sovereign powers and rights.

“We mentioned to her that the right to sovereignty is actually the cornerstone and the foundation of the United Nations Charter and she acceded to that proposition,” he added.

Khan was also informed that there is no order, policy issuance, or law on red-tagging in connection with the NTF-ELCAC.

Malaya said persons who fear being red-tagged can file libel or oral defamation cases in court. Public officers who may be victims of red-tagging can file cases with the Ombudsman or Civil Service Commission.

“Now that we’ve reached this stage in the campaign, we feel it is improper to call for its abolition and it would be best if necessary to undertake the transition,” he said.

He added that the NTF-ELCAC’s roadmap is to transition into a different body — the National Task Force on Unity Peace and Development — that will take charge of continuing development projects in the areas that were impoverished and neglected due to communist conflict.

Vasquez emphasized that Khan’s recommendation is preliminary and the final report will come months later.

“In fact, she herself opened a channel for continuing dialogues and engagements to further clarify,” he said.

“There was also an agreement between her and the State, that indeed the 10-day visit has so many limitations and that's why she herself said there’s a need for a longer time to refine the report.”

National Security Adviser (NSA) Eduardo Año, meanwhile, said they "respectfully disagree" with Khan’s recommendation to abolish the anti-insurgency task force.

"We are already at strategic victory in our campaign against the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) and to turn back now will be counterproductive and would render moot the 'whole of nation' approach that has been very successful in breaking the back of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the past five years," he added.

Año also noted that the communist insurgents are not yet eradicated as there are still 11 weakened guerrilla fronts across the country with some 1,500 armed fighters seeking to overthrow the government and wreak havoc and sow terrorism in the countryside.

"Once all guerilla fronts have been dismantled – hopefully this year – the NTF ELCAC intends to transition to an NTF-Unity Peace and Development (body) but not a day sooner. We have relayed this position to UNSR Irene Khan during the exit conference this morning and we hope she will consider this in her final report," he added. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)