MANILA—Some sectors raised concern over Vice-President Leni Robredo's position on the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which she recently said she supported after having previously criticized it.
In a security briefing with newly appointed Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Andres Centino and other senior military officers at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Robredo said she supported the mandate and functions of the task force.
At one point, she had said she was in favor of abolishing it.
ALL4LENI, a group of pro-Robredo labor leaders, called on Robredo to "reconsider her position," saying supporting the NTF-ELCAC's initiatives would be "counterproductive" to achieving a just resolution to conflict.
"The NTF-ELCAC has proven itself to be an enemy of peace. It has embarked on a relentless spree of red-tagging, harassment, and profiling of progressive organizations that fight for the legitimate grievances of many Filipinos," the group said.
ALL4LENI said the root cause of armed conflict would only be resolved through "strong trade unions, job security, living wages, land reform, and support for farmers, adequate housing, as well as the protection of ur environment and ancestral domain."
Abolishing the NTF-ELCAC, the group added, will be consistent with the Vice President's support for organized labor and her track record in public service.
The NTF-ELCAC was established as President Rodrigo Duterte signed the controversial Anti-Terror Law, much to the objection of rights groups locally and overseas, citing possible abuses against government critics.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna chairperson and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares called Robredo's "seeming turnaround" to her past position "worrisome."
He added that the problem wasn't centered on task force members, but on the agency's system "that includes harassment and attacks against anyone perceived to be left-leaning or critical to the administration."
"She had previously pointed out that under the task force's lead, various agencies have ended up terrorizing the countryside, illegally arresting activists and red-tagged critics, including her," Colmenares said, citing that the agency "plays a key role in [President Rodrigo Duterte]'s tyrannical rule."
Colmenares said good relations can be formed with the Armed Forces without supporting the "militaristic, violent, and anti-citizen approach" of the agency, adding that the voices of the marginalized should be heeded.
Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes echoed Colmenares' sentiments.
"Hindi lang red-tagging ang problema kung 'di ang mga EJK, ilegal na pag-aresto, puwersahang pagpapasuko, torture, surveillance at iba pang paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Lumala ang paglabag sa karapatang pantao dahil sa NTF-ELCAC," Reyes said in a statement, agreeing that armed conflict will only be resolved by giving adequate resources to the marginalized.