November 17, 2023
MANILA – Two high-ranking government officials on Thursday criticized a visiting United Nations dignitary for suggesting to abolish the anticommunist task force and repeal the antiterrorism law.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, on separate occasions, dismissed the call of UN Special Rapporteur Ian Fry to revoke the Anti-Terrorism Act and abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac).
Fry earlier pointed out how both were facilitating human rights violations and the harassment of environmental defenders. He cited “horrific stories” from civil society groups and indigenous peoples (IPs) organizations who were subjected to attacks.
Fry said he suggested the government should disband the NTF-Elcac “because it is operating beyond its original mandate and is Red-tagging people from the community.”
“That is the internal mechanism of our government. They should not interfere. They shouldn’t meddle in how we run our government,” Remulla told reporters.
Speaking at the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon news briefing aired on state television, Malaya, who is also NTF-Elcac spokesperson, said task force officials were “surprised and alarmed” at Fry’s recommendations and also accused the rapporteur of interfering in the country’s domestic policies and allowing himself to be manipulated by the “enemies of the government.”
Remulla argued that the establishment of NTF-Elcac is among the solutions to address communist insurgency in the country.
“We think this is the solution to end the proliferation of communism in our country and the sowing of fear and terror around us,” Remulla maintained.
“This is an effective internal mechanism of the government. The enemies of the government have been reduced,” he added.
Malaya supported Remulla’s statement. “The communist insurgency in our country is already ending with only one remaining active guerrilla front of the New People’s Army with 1,400 armed troops left. We are winning the war against the communist-terrorist groups,” he claimed.
“UN special rapporteur Fry is allowing himself to be used by the enemies of the government,” Malaya added.Open to suggestions
Remulla, however, acknowledged that Fry is free to air his opinion.“If they want to talk … freedom of speech, fine. But do I have to follow? Do we have to follow them?” the justice secretary said.
Malaya said National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año has already extended an invitation to Fry so that they could talk about the latter’s recommendations.
“If you haven’t left [the country] yet, drop by our place, at the NTF-Elcac, so that we can talk and we can give our side before you make a recommendation that has no basis and interferes in the internal policy-making process of our country,” he said.
Malaya claimed Fry was biased as he failed to accord the government due process before coming out with his recommendations.