Asian Century Journal

An Asian Century Philippines Publication

NTF-ELCAC & ‘Red-Tagging’ Under New PBBM Admin

The result of the latest PUBLICUS survey is a resounding affirmation that the successes of the Duterte administration and its priority programs should be continued by the new administration under the leadership of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

By Anna Malindog-Uy

The results of the said survey show that a majority of Filipinos support the continuation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Out of the total respondents of the ‘PAHAYAG 2022’ 2nd Quarter Survey held between June 16 to 22, 2022, around 56 percent approve or strongly approve the continuation of NTF-ELCAC.

In the same manner, other Duterte flagship programs like the Build, Build, Build (79 percent), War on Illegal Drugs (73 percent), Independent Foreign Policy (68 percent) and, the BARMM Transition (64 percent) garnered strong approval for continuation under the new administration.

This is indeed a strong indication, a clear and resounding affirmation of the successes of the flagship programs of the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

On the issue of fighting local insurgency under the framework of NTF-ELCAC, which I consider as one of the urgent imminent threats to our national security, I think the new administration must approach it decisively, assertively, pragmatically, and with strong resolve.

Pres. Marcos must express strong resolve to end this peril that had plagued the country for the longest time. It should come from him for people to be comforted and feel assured that the gains of the previous administration will not be in vain.

To note, the CPP-NPA-NDF is considered the longest-running communist insurgency. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States (US), the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Also, Pres. Duterte declared the CPP-NPA as an entity designated and/or identified as a terrorist organization through Proclamation No. 37434 issued in December 2017—and later on affirmed by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

NTF-ELCAC & ‘WoN’

The NTF-ELCAC is a product of Executive Order (EO) No. 70, s. 2018, adopting the ‘whole-of-nation’ (WoN) approach against insurgency. Thus far, it is effective in every sense and provides a better alternative to the intermittent peace talks which the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – New Peoples’ Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front (NDF) have taken advantage of over the years. Thus, it means that the new administration must not entertain in whatever sense any peace talk with the CPP-NDF-NPA but rather should focus on localized peace talks under the auspices of NTF-ELCAC.

The “whole-of-nation” approach advocated by the NTF-ELCAC, thus far, is, I think, the most efficient and effective anti-insurgency program ever crafted in the history of the Philippines as evidenced by the continuous and consistent reduction of the influence and strength of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

This had been evidenced by the statement of Acting AFP Spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar in a media interview where Aguilar mentioned the New People’s Army only had 23 guerrilla fronts left nationwide from 89 at the start of the Duterte administration. He further said that the NPA’s strength has dwindled to just some 2,000 fighters.

“As far as the military is concerned, we have received significant gains in the conduct of military operations against the threat, the armed threat, and that is almost 74 percent,” Aguilar said.

NTF-ELCAC, as a development-centered initiative, promotes welfare programs such as the delivery of housing, education, social protection, health, and basic services to our people.

It refocuses the government policy on armed conflicts not only as a military concern but primarily, as a manifestation of broad and deep-rooted societal ills. Thus, it is not true that NTF-ELCAC operates and had operated under a military-centric framework as claimed by some personalities and segments of our society.

Furthermore, the NTF-ELCAC has the duty and role of fighting an information/narrative war vis-à-vis that of the CPP-NDF-NPA to raise awareness against the CPP-NPA-NDF, its cohorts, and tentacles widely spread across all social sectors and that includes public and private entities considering the recruitment of child combatants/soldiers and deaths of young Filipinos in military and NPA encounters. Thus, fighting an information/narrative war against the CPP-NDF-NPA must be done with pragmatism and with a strong resolve.

‘Red-Tagging’

On the issue of “red-tagging,” and the alleged deaths as a result of alleged government red-tagging or terrorist-tagging, claimed by the representatives of the progressive groups including members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress, they, thus far, has no substantial evidence. Some identified members of this block, the so-called “legal fronts” of the CPP-NDF-NPA are in jail at the moment, not because of so-called “red-tagging” but for criminal offenses.

It is prudent and fair to clarify for the enlightenment of the Filipino public that this so-called “red-tagging” is not among the pre-conceived policies sought to be implemented under E.O. 70, more specifically during the Duterte administration.

Likewise, it is important to emphasize what the Supreme Court ruling said that the “mere labeling of a group as a communist front is not an actual threat to one’s right to life, liberty, or security.”

Nevertheless, identifying an organization or a personality as a supporter, a member, or a CPP “cadre” backed up with solid and supporting pieces of evidence is not necessarily and not at all tantamount to “red-tagging” or “labeling” per se but more of exposing a fact or a truth for that matter.

Identifying those who are part of the machinery of the CPP-NDF-NPA, for a lack of a better term, should be called from now on “truth-tagging” because that is by far the crux of the matter.

It was no less than Pres. Duterte who said that the government is “not red-tagging” the left including the legal fronts of the CPP-NDF-NPA.

“We are not red-tagging you. We are identifying you as members in a grand conspiracy comprising all the legal fronts that you have organized headed by the NDF (National Democratic Front) and Communist Party of the Philippines,” former President Duterte said in one of his weekly addresses to the nation.

On another note, government officials under the new administration, especially those who will now take the reign of the NTF-ELCAC and the National Security Council (NSC), I guess, must take the denial of the Makabayan bloc that it has no links whatsoever to the CPP-NDF-NPA with a grain of salt and second thought.

One has to be cognizant of the fact that to date, members of the Makabayan bloc in and out of Congress have yet to denounce the CPP-NDF-NPA and the many atrocities committed and perpetuated by them.

Unless the Makabayan bloc– identified by the security forces to be directly connected to CPP-NDF-NPA– will openly and strongly denounce these communist terrorist groups (CTGs) for their actual acts of aggression against the duly constituted government and the people and disassociate themselves from the armed struggle, their denial must be looked askance at with lots of reservations.

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