Various groups have called on the Marcos Jr. administration to implement the recent recommendations of the United Nations (UN) rapporteur Ian Fry to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Fry, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, recommended the abolishment of NTF-ELCAC on November 15, citing that it “operates with impunity.” Fry also met with various stakeholders including government officials and noted that authorities have been using the NTF-ELCAC mandate with impunity “to protect key economic interests in the country.” He also mentioned that “various clergy and humanitarian workers have been falsely accused” under the ATL.
Aside from the abolishment of NTF-ELCAC, groups are also appealing for the protection of environmental defenders and the continuation of the peace agreement between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which was scrapped in 2017, and the abolition of the controversial anti-terrorism law.
“We deem these recommendations reasonable and crucial as a step forward to remove the institutionalized hurdles that prevent us from attaining a just peace in our country,” said the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) in a statement.
Karapatan Secretary General Crisitina Palabay likewise lauded Fry’s unequivocal recommendation to abolish the NTF-ELCAC saying “Fry’s visit to the country comes at a crucial time. It puts on center stage the sinister role played by the NTF-ELCAC and the dangerous impact of the terror law on the lives and safety of environmental human rights defenders in the country.”
The Philippines has been one of the world’s deadliest countries and Asia’s worst for environmental defenders in the past 10 years. Killings of environmental defenders peaked during the Duterte regime, which accounted for 205 (or 73%) of the 281 defenders slain extajudicially from 2012 to 2022. “But the problem persists under the Marcos Jr. regime, as evidenced by the abduction by state forces last September of environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, who have been campaigning against ecologically destructive reclamation projects along Manila Bay,” added Palabay.