September 6, 2023
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) calls for the withdrawal of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) engagement as private sector representative to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“While the CBCP has clarified that only its Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs is engaging with the NTF-ELCAC to ‘address some Church issues vis-a-vis government’, the NTF-ELCAC’s gross record of human rights violations should be enough reason for the CBCP to cease any form of involvement with them,” said ICHRP Global Council Chairperson Peter Murphy.
“Instead of joining and allowing itself to be used to legitimize NTF-ELCAC, the CBCP should be calling for its abolition for it has been a tool used to demonize church people and freedom loving Filipino people who are exemplifying genuine services to their members and to their country,” added Murphy.
Church people have been victims to NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging rampage. Last February 22, Negros Catholic Bishop Gerardo Alminaza was red-tagged during a segment of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI)’s television program “Laban Kasama ng Bayan”. SMNI serves as the NTF-ELCAC’s propaganda machine.
“By involving the church, the NTF-ELCAC is blatantly abusing its so-called ‘whole-of-nation approach’ and it seems to have forgotten the separation of church and state,” continued Murphy.
The NTF-ELCAC was established on December 4, 2018, through then President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 70. Its stated goal is to end the communist armed rebellion in the country, which is one of the longest running insurgencies in the world. But instead of addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, the NTF-ELCAC has resorted to baseless red-tagging, harassing, vilifying, and surveilling activists, human rights defenders, church workers, peasants, and workers. Many of those previously red-tagged end up dead or in jail with trumped-up charges.
“Joining the NTF-ELCAC is not the best way to address church issues with the government. We urge the CBCP to demand that the government respect the Filipino people’s fundamental rights and support their desire for a just peace and genuine development. ICHRP remains vigilant in exposing the Philippine government’s attempts to further its spate of human rights and international humanitarian law violations,” concluded Murphy. ###
For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301