Stop Red Tagging!

Defunding the task force is a knee-jerk reaction to the red-tagging issue of community pantries. It defeats the purpose of the Bayanihan spirit being promoted by community pantries. Instead of sowing further divide, leaders of the Armed Forces should call out its own Gen. Parlade for his uncivilized remarks against Community Pantry Initiator Ana Patricia Non.

The Philippine Congress approved the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's (NTF-ELCAC) budget allocation of Php 19 billion for fiscal year 2021. The NTF-ELCAC was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 70 of 2008 to "provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the Whole-of-Nation approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace." Based on Section 3 of E.O 70 s. 2008, the President is the Chair of the NTF-ECLAC.

Since its inception, the NTF-ECLAC has been under public scrutiny over their unabated red-tagging of schools and universities, celebrities, religious personalities, and community pantry organizers as members of the communist group CPP-NPA-NDF. Despite constant reminders from government officials alike to be more tactful when it comes to identifying personalities as members of communist groups, NTF-ELCAC's spokesperson Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. has had a penchant for claiming and labeling individuals as sympathizers, supporters, and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF with token evidence to offer. 

The Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and the Interior and Local Government Department has already advised the NTF-ELCAC to leave community pantries alone after strong public denouncement of the alleged community profiling by authorities of the community pantry in Maginhawa St., Quezon City. The Senators have also called out NTF-ELCAC and even threatened to defund the task force. Nevertheless, NTF-ELCAC's talking heads seem to be unmoved by the above statements of several personalities from key government institutions.

While Php 16 Billion of the Php 19 Billion NTF-ELCAC budget is dedicated towards development projects for 800 villages which had been freed of communist rebel influence, it would not hurt NTF-ELCAC if it spent more of its remaining Php 3 Billion for strategic and innovative intelligence efforts in tracing links of individuals to the communist rebel network. It does not invite confidence if the NTF-ELCAC’s Spokesperson claims that one of its strategic actions is to gather intelligence through Facebook. It would not hurt if it appointed competent talking heads to restore public trust and confidence in the task force’s fight against terrorism.

Defunding the task force is a knee-jerk reaction to the red-tagging issue of community pantries. It defeats the purpose of the Bayanihan spirit being promoted by community pantries. Instead of sowing further divide, leaders of the Armed Forces should call out its own Gen. Parlade for his uncivilized remarks against Community Pantry Initiator Ana Patricia Non. No less than the Commander-in-Chief, as Chair of the NTF-ELCAC, should publicly castigate the talking heads of NTF-ELCAC for its actions without sufficient basis. These should be done in solidarity with the Filipino people who have supported and participated in the community pantry initiative.

One of the functions of the NTF-ELCAC is to develop "strategic communication, advocacy and peace constituency plans... to engage and facilitate local peace engagements or negotiations and interventions." Red tagging is in no way effective or strategic in achieving peace among our communities. It must stop now!

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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