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NTF-ELCAC sees positive collaboration with UN Rapporteur Khan

January 25, 2024

The Philippine government is confident that the 10-day visit of United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan will help enhance efforts by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in solidifying the gains from the protection and defense of freedom of expression and opinion, according to National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Executive Director and Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr.

“Ms. (Irene) Khan’s visit may provide an opportunity for constructive dialogue and cooperation on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the country” Torres answered when asked by the media about the significance and implications of the visit during a virtual press conference.

“It may also result in concrete recommendations and follow-up actions that could address some of the existing challenges and gaps in this area. The result of our interaction with Ms. Khan will have an impact on the Philippines' standing before the international community, emphasizing the importance of fostering a positive and collaborative relationship during her visit,” he added.

Torres said they are anticipating that Khan will definitely face considerable challenges as she engages with diverse perspectives and narratives from different government agencies, civil society groups, non-government organizations, especially entities and communist terrorist groups (CTGs) aligned with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“Evaluating the conflicting stories presented by both sides will pose a considerable challenge for her. Nonetheless, the government expresses confidence that the veracity of our narratives will prevail,” he said.

Torres said the government has high hopes that Khan’s visit would not be a repeat of the tensions created by the recent visit of UN Special Rapporteur for promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change Ian Fry, who initially recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC.

The NTF-ELCAC was formed in December 2018 through Executive Order No. 70 which security and political pundits viewed as a “game-changer” in the government’s efforts to eliminate the scourge of the 55-year-old Maoist-inspired insurgency.

A day after her Monday (January 22, 2024) arrival to the Philippines, Khan met top security officials like Torres and National Security Council (NSC) Assistant Deputy Director Jonathan Malaya, among others, where she was briefed by the Anti-Terrorism Council about the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the mandate of the NTF-ELCAC.

“She was just absorbing all the presentations…Toward the end of the meeting, there are some points that she would like to make a follow-up on. For instance, ‘yung sa NTF-ELCAC concern. She would like to get further information about the red-tagging issue because alam nating lahat na even sa abroad the NTF-ELCAC is being equated unfairly to red-tagging,” Torres said.

However, due to time constraints, the meeting with Khan had to be cut short because of her hectic schedule. “She would like to hear more from us kung ano ‘yung ginagawa natin to prevent such a thing from happening.”

Torres once again explained that the red-tagging issue is not a policy of the government but rather an invention of the CPP-NPA-NDF that it used as a tool to vilify the government here and abroad.

“On Ms. Khan’s visit, especially in the context of NTF-ELCAC, our expectation is that she diligently listens and impartially scrutinizes reports from various groups she engages with. We envision her producing a comprehensive report that is fair and just to all parties involved,” he said.



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