Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought an immediate Senate inquiry into the rampant human rights abuses committed by state actors against legitimate civil society organizations and rights defenders in the country in the guise of counter-insurgency measures.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 215 urging the appropriate Senate committee to look into the red-tagging and human rights violations committed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“NTF-ELCAC was supposedly created to address problems of insurgency by shifting the strategy from a military to a civilian approach. However, according to reports, it has been used for political persecution, harassment and even violation of human rights,” she said.
In December 2018, Mr. Duterte issued Executive Order (E.O.) No. 70 creating the NTF-ELCAC mandated to provide an efficient mechanism structure for the implementation of a “whole-of-nation” approach to attain inclusive and sustainable peace.
Created under the Office of the President, the NTF-ELCAC is chaired by Mr. Duterte and vice chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, lamented however that the implementation of E.O. No. 70 has shown to be conveniently used by state actors to justify their acts of targeting legitimate civil society organizations and red-tagging human rights defenders.
Last Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, law enforcement authorities reportedly arrested some 59 activists in widespread crackdown on people’s organizations in Negros and Manila.
Those that were raided include offices of the Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan, Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers and the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, along with the residence of local leaders in Bacolod City and Manila.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay pointed out that the search warrants against 59 activists issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 enabled the arbitrary arrest and planting of incriminating evidence against them during the simultaneous raids.
“This abuse of power by the government, in the guise of counter-insurgency measures, affects the true beneficiaries of the services of these organizations and, in effect, deprives them of invaluable humanitarian aids in the guise of counter-insurgency measures,” said De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion.
Before the incident, the rights groups, including Karapatan, filed a petition writ of amparo and habeas data before the Supreme Court last May averring that “red-tagging and terrorist-labeling of Duterte and his men became more systematic” and that that the threats against their lives were aggravated, through E.O. No. 70.
In addressing insurgency, De Lima said the government should ensure respect of people’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights because the State is duty-bound to maintain peace and order, protect life, liberty, and property, and promote the public welfare.
“There is an urgent need to hold accountable the government officials involved in implementing E.O. No. 70 and determine whether the same has effectively met its objectives or whether it is merely being used by state actors to justify oppressive acts against human rights defenders and dissenters,” she said.