MANILA: A United Nations human rights expert urged the Philippines on Wednesday (Nov 15) to abolish an anti-communist task force that has been accused of targeting government critics.
Former president Rodrigo Duterte set up the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in 2018 to quash a decades-old insurgency.
The task force, which includes the military, has frequently labelled human rights activists, environmental defenders, lawyers and journalists as communist sympathisers, without providing any evidence.
The decades-old practice, known as “red-tagging”, can result in the arrest, detention or even death of the person targeted, and exploded under Duterte.
Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, said the government should “disband” the task force and revoke an anti-terrorism law.
The task force was clearly “operating beyond its original mandate and is red-tagging people from the community and indigenous peoples”, Fry said at the end of a 10-day visit to the Philippines.
Harassment of “environmental human rights defenders” was prevalent, he said, calling for an independent investigation into the task force’s past actions.
“I’ve heard of cases of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial killings of people, and this is totally unacceptable,” Fry told reporters.
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