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NTF ELCAC human rights mechanism, protects people: Palace exec

By Priam Nepomuceno / Philippine News Agency

Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura (Screengrab from RTVM)

MANILA – Contrary to critics’ claims that it is a wanton and cruel executioner, a ranking official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) said the body embodies the will of the government to protect its people.

"It is also important for everyone to understand that the NTF ELCAC is actually a human rights mechanism because it embodies the determination of the government to protect its people and to provide all the services that will uplift their dignity," Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS) Undersecretary Severo Catura said in an online briefing on May 10.

He also stressed that the NTF ELCAC is an instrument in the government's quest for lasting peace.

"We do recognize the historical perspectives from which the threats of peace are coming, and it has always been the government's obligation to address this even under the different administrations. But it is only in this administration that we have tried to be very, very focused (on this)," said Catura, who is also NTF ELCAC spokesperson for International Affairs, Peace Process, Human Rights Concerns.

He added that the NTF ELCAC is a means for all sectors of society to express its concern on how the government is managing a particular concern.

"Mayroon man kayong mga concerns tungkol sa pamamaraan natin, pamamalakad ng gobyerno, mas magagawa natin ito kung tayo ay magkakasama-sama in an environment of peace. Alisin natin iyong ating ano, iyon mga tawag natin na i-overthrow ang gobyerno. Noon pa man gusto nang i-overthrow ang gobyerno, wala namang nangyayari (If we have concerns on how our government, we can all express our concerns in an environment of peace. Let us remove calls for the overthrow of the government. A lot of us have been calling for the overthrow of the government in the past and nothing has happened)," Catura said.

Through the NTF ELCAC, he is hopeful that the proper reforms can be enacted peacefully.

"We can make the proper reforms, we can work towards this through ways of peace," he said.

Huge mission

The NTF ELCAC, he added, needs additional spokespersons among its ranks, the PHRCS official attributed this to the vast mandate of the organization.

"I think it’s important for us to understand the width and breadth of the mandate of the NTF-ELCAC, and this cannot be handled by just one or two spokespersons," Catura said, adding that the mission of the NTF ELCAC is very huge and encompasses the political, socio-economic and cultural grain of society’s fiber.

"So dapat ito ang ma-appreciate natin (We should appreciate this). This is a work not simply of government, and it is also the work of the entire nation as well. So just imagine po ang napakalawak na dapat nating i-cover(we have a large path to cover). And we hope that the media over time will understand," he said.

Another reason is that the body needs a perspective that would engage with international stakeholders as NTF ELCAC needs to convey its message before international bodies, he added.

"Because most of the time, ang lumalabas pong narrative na ang ginagawa natin dito ay kaberduguhan (the narrative coming out is that the NTF ELCAC is just an executioner). The government is being pilloried for something which it is not doing. It is in fact protecting its people. We are not oppressing people. And it is important that all international engagements, we are able to convey this proper information because, at the end of the day, this will be for the betterment of every one of us – hindi lang po gobyerno (not just the government)," Catura said.

From the perspective of human rights, he said the marginalized sector has been long waiting for the government to come to them but is unable to do due to threats.

"We have so many good programs but they cannot be undertaken primarily because there are threats being properly implemented and undertaken. So we wish to remove all these, to come up with an environment wherein we can gather together; there is freedom of expression, anyone can actually express their dissent only on one condition – that they should not be calling for the violent overthrow of the government. Hindi naman po tama iyon. (that is not right)," he said.

Aside from the PHRCS, other agencies who have spokespersons in the NTF ELCAC include the following:

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Below are the five other new spokespersons and their respective primary coverages:

*DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya - Local Government Affairs, Barangay Development Program, International Engagement;

*PTFoMS Undersecretary Jose Joel Sy Egco - Mass Media Engagements, Fact-Checker;

*DOTr Assistant Secretary Celine Pialago - NTF-ELCAC Public Affairs and Information, Youth Concerns;

*NCIP Caraga regional director lawyer Marlon Bosantog - Legal Affairs, Indigenous Peoples Concerns; and

*Gaye Florendo - Assistant Spokesperson on NTF-ELCAC Public Affairs and on Indigenous Peoples Concerns.

Earlier, AFP Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen Antonio Parlade Jr. and PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy have been designated as co-spokespersons of the task force.

Under the new list, Parlade will serve as spokesperson for Security Sector Operations while Badoy will handle Social Media Affairs, Sectoral Concerns.

NTF ELCAC vice-chair and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon emphasized the need to designate eight spokespersons due to the “multi-faceted, multi-layered” nature of the task force.

“Remember, the national task force is composed of all agencies of government and so we are just drawing the support and pool of talents from all the government agencies,” Esperon said in a press conference.

“[It is] so that not all the work goes to only two. They are with us not on a full-time basis. They come from different agencies. They could not be with us for 7/24,” he added. (PNA)



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