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Public outcry vs UN rapporteur mounts

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

November 16, 2023

Enrique Manalastas, father of Jhed Tamano, took to social media to express his dismay over the scathing remark of a United Nations (UN) rapporteur for recommending the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“Just because you represent the UN does not mean you have all the facts right! Maybe Mr (Ian) Fry, try talking to the parents of those environmental defenders, I will personally lecture you on what really is happening,” Manalastas commented to a post published at the NTF-ELCAC’ s official Facebook account.

His remarks drew attention to what appears to be a disconnect between what Fry believes is going on and what people on the ground are actually experiencing.

At the center of this controversy is Fry’s portrayal of events involving environmental defenders, which Manalastas has vehemently contested.

Manalastas and his wife have been moving “heaven and earth” to bring back their daughter home from the hands of communist front organizations (CFOs) that recruited her.

Jhed and self-confessed New People’s Army (NPA) member Jonila Castro are facing perjury case after recanting their sworn statements following their surrender last September to the military.

Manalastas’ remarks underscored the importance of direct engagement with the affected families and communities, suggesting that firsthand accounts might provide a different perspective from what has been presented by the UN rapporteur.

Public uproar

Fry’s controversial statement also did not escape public condemnation as netizens have come forward to voice their disagreement with the proposed disbandment of the task force.

Reacting to the post, netizen Daniel dela Cruz wrote:

“UNSR seemed bias by ignoring the NTF-ELCAC and his visit is favorable to CPP NPA operatives who are on disguise as environmental human rights activists.”

Another one, Kyle Wandula, stated: “NTF ELCAC has been very effective that is why the leftist group are employing all their available resources and influencers.”

Pedro Cañas Flores-Serrano, another commenter, said: “We don't owe this devious mouthpiece, nor any of the foreign entities, an explanation on how we run our country with our policies to fight and put an end to this criminal terrorist insurgency. We are not a colony!”

‘Persona non grata’

Meanwhile, during Thursday’s virtual press conference hosted by the Integrated Communications Operations Center (ICOC) and NTF-ELCAC’s Media Bureau, National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairman Undersecretary Ronald Gian Carlo Cardema said Fry should be declared “persona non grata” in the Philippines.

“Dapat i-persona non grata sa Pilipinas ‘yan. Anong alam niya sa activities ng CPP-NPA dito sa bansa kung paano sila magrekrut sa mga paaralan, sa mga estudyante at kabataan. Hindi niya alam,” he said.

Usec. Paul Guttierez of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) also took exception to Fry’s recommendation.

“Ano bang alam nila sa nangyayari dito? If we dig deeper into this, dito natin makikita na marami pa rin, bagaman marami ng tagumpay ang NTF-ELCAC, marami pa tayong dapat gawin. Dito natin makikita na nakokontrol ng mga kaaway ng gobyerno ang narrative kahit sa labas ng bansa," he told the media in the same press conference.

In the Senate, the recommendation of Fry did not sit well with Sen. Ronald dela Rosa who branded him as a “misinformed” person.

The former national police chief warned Fry not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

De la Rosa said Fry’s comments reveal what he considers to be a narrow comprehension of the government's endeavors, suggesting that the person may have been exposed to a single viewpoint, resulting in a distorted representation of the circumstances.

"Maybe [he] is one of the most misinformed foreigners who set foot in the country. Maybe the only side he heard was on the other side. He didn’t listen to the government,” he said in a statement.

He also underscored how crucial it is to fully comprehend the complex dynamics at play, hinting that the person in question may not have had access to all available information, including the government's position and intentions.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla also warned the UN rapporteur not to get involved in the work of the NTF-ELCAC of the Philippine government.

Remulla said the NTF-ELCAC is an internal mechanism of the government to eliminate the decades-old scourge of the communist terrorist group.

He also stressed the need to maintain the task force's autonomy and to prevent outside interference in its operations.

In addition, the NTF-ELCAC expressed regret for Fry's lost chance to interact with their stakeholders—which included human rights and peace advocates—and to learn more about the task force's core initiatives and projects, which are meant to bring about peace and prosperity in historically unstable areas.###


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