Photo credit: Lyn Rillon
United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) Irene Khan has called on the Philippine government to disband the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). Following her 10-day visit to assess press freedom, Khan emphasized the outdated nature of the task force, attributing it to endangering the lives of human rights defenders, activists, and journalists through Red-tagging. Red-tagging, defined by the Commission on Human Rights, involves state actors publicly branding individuals as communist affiliates, leading to threats and attacks.
Khan recommended abolishing the NTF-Elcac, stating it doesn’t align with ongoing peace negotiations and contributes to the vilification of dissenters. She suggested the government adopt a policy denouncing Red-tagging through an executive order, emphasizing the need to protect legitimate activities such as critical reportage and addressing human rights violations within the rule of law. Despite jubilation from rights groups, government officials rejected Khan’s recommendation, citing strategic victories against communist rebels and the task force’s role in promoting good governance.