Human rights advocates call on UN for support in abolishing NTF-ELCAC and anti-terror law

A delegation of human rights defenders is seeking support from members of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the abolition of the government’s anti-insurgency task force, National Task Force To End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 (ATL).

In a press release, the Philippine Universal Periodic Watch Review (UPR) announced that the delegation will testify on the “continuing human rights violations” under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“We are here to inform the international community that the findings by both special rapporteur on climate change and human rights Ian Fry last November and special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan last February that human rights violations continue are true,” the press release from Philippine UPR read.

The UPR stated that the delegation will reference the recommendations from two UN rapporteurs who visited the Philippines, both of whom suggested the abolition of NTF-ELCAC and the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Since its establishment in 2018, NTF-ELCAC has faced criticism for promoting questionable narratives against human rights advocates, opposition lawmakers, journalists, teachers, lawyers, and members of marginalized groups. The organization has also been accused of obstructing legislation aimed at safeguarding human rights defenders by framing activism as terrorism.

The ATL, which faces 37 constitutional challenges before the Supreme Court, has drawn criticism from human rights groups and lawyers for its loose definition of terrorism and the broad powers granted to its implementor, the Anti-Terrorism Council.

UPR also announced plans to meet with representatives from UN member states and international civil society organizations concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“The Marcos Jr. government wants to paint a rosy picture of so-called improved rhetoric and improved conditions but we are here both as victims and witnesses that anti-people policies have not changed as evidenced by the exit statements by Mr. Fry and Ms. Khan,” the delegation’s press release stated.

Among the members of the delegation is Rev. Glofie Baluntong from the United Methodist Church, who was one of the first individuals to be charged under the ATL.

NTF-ELCAC has been reached out to for comment on the matter, but no statement has been received yet, according to the agency’s spokesman Joel Egco.

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