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PDI poll fries UNHR Special Rapporteur Fry

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

November 17, 2023

A Viber poll by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) is gaining public traction proving that Dr. Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in the context of climate change, was misinformed and, therefore, grossly mistaken in his assumptions that led him to recommend for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

As of Friday (Nov. 17), the said poll portal posted by a certain Noelyn Joy Matitu with the question: “Are you favor of dissolving the NTF-ELCAC amid alleged human rights controversies?”, votes cast as of 12 noon show 86.47% (5221 of 6038 votes) for those against and 13.53% (817 of 6038) for those in favor.

Fry’s remarks jolted government officials like National Security Council (NSC) Secretary Eduardo Ano, also the concurrent NTF-ELCAC vice-chairperson, to say that “Fry’s report must be deemed incomplete, while Senator Ronald dela Rosa calls him one of “the most misinformed foreigners to set foot in the country.” More so that National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairman Undersecretary Ronald Gian Carlo Cardema calls on the government to declare Fry persona non grata in the country.

Fry’s remarks also drew public uproar and criticisms from civil society organizations, netizens and various government officials. The UN rapporteur is expected to submit his final report before the UN body by June 2024. During his press conference, he told the media his negative impressions about NTF-ELCAC’s alleged human rights violations with impunity.

NTF-ELCAC National Secretariat Executive Director Undersecretary Jun Torres Jr., during Thursday’s interview with DZMM, admitted that even his office was not informed about the presence of Fry in the country.

“To be honest about it, we’re just informed about his presence na in our country nung siya ay naglabas na ng kanyang mga statements...which is very unfair and very biased na maglabas siya ng ganung rekomendasyon,” he said.

Fry’s uncalled for statements have caused public uproar whose support for the NTF-ELCAC is outpouring.

Joel Sy Egco, also head of NTF-ELCAC’s media bureau Integrated Communications Operations Center (ICOC), citing the media poll, chided Fry’s gross mistake in tainting the probity and integrity of the body which happened to be under the office Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the chairman.

“The Filipino people have spoken; Mr. Fry should listen, correct his ill-informed initial impressions before drafting his final report. We urge him to do it right because it is the right thing to do,” said Egco.

Meanwhile, Usec. Torres echoed Ano’s offer for Fry to return to the country and have a dialogue with them and other relevant government agencies involved in the government’s “whole-of-nation, whole-of-participation” approach through the NTF-ELCAC in solving the root causes of the decades-old communist armed conflict in the country.

“We’re extending (our) invitation, bumalik po siya sa Pilipinas and he is very much welcome para po tayo magkadayalogo sa kanya,” he said.

‘Dead wrong’

In a more strongly-worded statement, Flosemer Chris Gonzales, spokesperson for the Regional Task Force Region 6- ELCAC (RTF6-ELCAC), said Fry “violated” some basic human rights tenets after he surreptitiously called for the abolition of the government’s anti-communist insurgency body.

“You are dead wrong Mr. Fry. We violated no human rights. On the contrary, you, Ian Fry, violated our rights!”, said Gonzales.

He said Fry has “no right” and “authority” to demand to the President to abolish NTF-ELCAC based on baseless accusations.

Both Gonzales and Torres believed Fry apparently championed only one side while omitting the government’s noble cause on the other side.

“Please take note that the only group that finds joy in your ill-informed and clearly unfounded statements as the supposed UN ‘special rapporteur’ is the very same group that holds a deep-seated grudge against the NTF-ELCAC,” Gonzales said.

Obviously, Gonzales was referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and its various organizations in the legal front.

Clearly, Torres said Fry had no clear grasp about the mandate of the NTF-ELCAC.

“Maari at very obvious na hindi nagpaliwanag sa kanya (‘yung) mga nakausap niya kugn ano ang mandato ng NTF-ELCAC. Obvious na hindi niya naintindihan na ang mandato natin ay i-harmonize, i-synchronize lahat ng efforts ng government agencies para ma-solve ‘yung root causes ng insurgency kasama na diyan ‘yungkahirapan, problema sa kalusugan, problema sa edukasyon, imprastraktura. at marami pang iba,” he explained.

Torres also downplayed Fry’s criticisms on the alleged involvement of the military in “extra-judicial killings” and many more accusations.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been consistently maintaining its position on top of surveys in terms of trust and confidence of the Filipino people.

Lastly, Torres underscored the importance of the NTF-ELCAC in nation-building by supporting and assisting government national and local agencies deliver basic social services especially to geographically isolated and disadvantage areas (GIDAS).

The Task Force was created through Executive Order No. 70 in December 2018 during the time of former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and this rejuvenated by the current administration of Pres. Marcos Jr.

Since then from 89 NPA active guerrilla fronts, only one remaining in the Northern Samar area.

“There were 89 active guerrilla fronts all over the country. But right now, ang naiwan na lang po diyan ay 20 weakened guerrilla fronts,” Torres said.

He said they are confident the remaining weakened and the lone active will be all eliminated by the first quarter of next year.

“So if that happens, our focus in our campaign would now shift to attaining unity, peace and development. Siguro we will transition our campaign…focus more in establishing unity, lasting peace and inclusive development particularly doon po sa GIDAS,” he added.###


Ref: Joel M. Sy Egco



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