JOINT PRESS RELEASE FOR THE MEETING OF NTF-ELCAC, ATC, AND DILG WITH UNSR
January 24, 2024
UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan meets with the NTF-ELCAC, ATC-PMC and DILG
QUEZON CITY – United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan met with the executives of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Anti-Terrorism Council Program Management Center (ATC-PMC) hosted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) at PNP Headquarters, Camp Crame to discuss crucial topics of freedom of opinion and expression.
In the course of the meeting, ATC-PMC, ably represented by Atty. Andrew Joshua Alcantara, Acting Executive Director, and Director Serme Ayuyao, emphasized the importance of state policy in safeguarding fundamental rights and liberties in the fight against terrorism. They underscored in their presentation that the Supreme Court decision upholding the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020's constitutionality and the issuance of judicial regulations guaranteeing its responsible execution. ATC-PMC also sheds light on the stringent guidelines that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) adheres to when categorizing organizations as terrorists. It made clear the implications of these designations, the recourse options open to designated entities, and the imperative nature of these steps in preventing the funding of terrorism in compliance with international commitments, such as UN Security Council Resolution 1373.
Meanwhile, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has emphasized its efforts to promote good governance by enhancing civic participation in national and local decision-making processes. The National Task Force also discussed its mandate to address the root causes of insurgency and implement long-term development to improve the quality of life in communities affected by armed conflict. The NTF-ELCAC also invited resource speakers to share their personal experiences, including 2LT Justine Kate Raca PN (M) who shared her knowledge about her radicalization as a student at the University of the Philippines, and how she was recruited into the NPA. Ms. Luisa Espina narrated about her daughter who was radicalized when she was 16 years old and recruited into the NPA. Ms. Espina did not stop searching for her daughter, and in 2019, she co-founded the Hands Off Our Children (HOOC) to continue her advocacy for the safe return of her daughter to their family and more importantly, to assist other mothers who have experienced the same predicament as hers. Lastly, Ms. Alma Gabin, a former member of the front organization of the CPP-NPA terrorist who became an armed member of the CNT, shared her experience of how the government facilitated her mainstreaming into society and her transformation as a builder of peace to contribute to nation-building.
Ms. Khan thanked the agencies for their presentation but hoped to be able to sit down again to engage in a productive discussion due to the limited time allotted. The meeting ended with Undersecretary Ernesto C. Torres Jr., the Executive Director of the National Secretariat, NTF-ELCAC, highlighting the importance of protecting vulnerable sectors such as students, women, and children. He stressed that it is imperative to strive towards creating a more resilient nation where every individual can freely express their opinions while feeling safe and protected. He also emphasized, “Our government supports all initiatives that foster a culture of healthy skepticism, encouraging cognitive biases, fact-checking information, and supporting organizations that promote media literacy. A society with empowered minds is equipped to face the challenges of the information age, building a safer, more secure future for every Filipino.” The activity concluded with a photo opportunity with Ms. Irene Khan and the government agencies.