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Robredo criticized for backing anti-communist task force

VICE President Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ G. Robredo met Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Andres C. Centino on Nov. 26, 2021 at the Camp Emilio Aguinaldo headquarters in Quezon City, where she was briefed by military officials on national security issues.

A HUMAN rights group has criticized Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo over her remarks supporting a government-led task force against Maoist rebels.

Ms. Robredo told military generals in a meeting Friday that she supports the mandate and functions of the government’s anti-communist task force, just weeks after she called for its abolition. She said “careless” members have put the group in a bad light.

Several officials of the task force, including a now retired military general, have been accused of tagging personalities, without presenting evidence, of being members or supporters of the communist movement.

In a statement, rights group Karapatan said the calls for the task force’s abolition is “not only confined to criticisms on careless statements of some members.”

No less than the presidential order that created the task force has enabled it to resort to militarist campaigns “that make no distinction between combatants and civilians,” it added.

The group reminded Ms. Robredo that the government’s policy against so-called communists resulted in 421 individuals killed since July 2016, including peasants, workers, indigenous people, human rights defenders, lawyers, among others.

“At least 215 human rights defenders such as our colleagues Zara Alvarez, Randall Echanis, Randy Malayao, Elisa Badayos, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, and Vice President Robredo’s fellow Bicolanos Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala are among the victims,” it added.

“We documented 223 victims of torture. Some of them were left for dead and experienced cruelties reminiscent of tactics used under the Marcos martial law,” it said. “Thousands have been forced or fooled into being ‘surrenderees’ even if they are ordinary civilians.”

The problem with the ad hoc anti-communist team “cannot be merely attributed to its ‘careless members’ but to a systemic policy that includes harassment and attacks against anyone perceived to be left-leaning or critical of the administration,” former representative of Bayan Muna Party-list and senatorial candidate Neri J. Colmenares said in a separate statement.

He said Ms. Robredo, who is running for president, could maintain good relationships with the military “without supporting a militarist, violent” approach of the inter-agency task force.

Ms. Robredo said in her meeting with military generals that she also supports the task force’s program rewarding villages that have cleared their territories of Maoist rebels.

Only 26 out of more than 2,000 projects led by the anti-insurgency agency were completed this year, according to Philippine senators who managed to cut its proposed P28-billion budget for next year to only P4 billion.

Lawmakers earlier said that the original budget proposed by the task force could be used for electioneering. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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