CEBU CITY – Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, sat in a meeting with civil society organizations at the University of the Philippines Cebu on January 29, 2024, where the groups exposed the widespread violation of human rights, and called to abolish National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Various human rights groups and civil society organizations from the islands of Panay, Negros, and Cebu attended the aforementioned meeting to discuss the situation of freedom of expression in the Visayas.

For Defend Panay Network, it is only right to abolish NTF-ELCAC and junk the Executive Order No. 70 s. 2018 or the “Whole of Nation Approach” policy of the government because it has become an instrument to curtail people’s opposition to the government’s anti-people policies.

The Defend Panay Network, along with other civil society organizations and human rights groups, submitted a report to Khan’s office on cases of rampant violations of the right to freedom of expression, such as red-tagging, filing of trumped-up charges, and killing of critics, journalists, and human rights defenders.

Prior to said meeting, Khan also visited last January 27, community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and two other human rights defenders who are currently detained in Tacloban City Jail in Leyte. It can be noted that Cumpio and others were arrested last February 2020 because of trumped-up charges against them. In a post, Khan expressed her disappointment with the progress of Cumpio’s case and that it has been four years without justice.

Cumpio, along with Lady Ann Salem and Anne Kreuger are some of the journalists who were imprisoned due to false charges. The group National Union of Journalists in the Philippines or NUJP also expressed gratitude for Khan’s visit.

DPN, and other CSOs recommended to Khan that the human rights violations be properly investigated – such as the attack, harassment, and killing of journalists and activists, the decriminalization of cyber libel, and eventually the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC.

After a series of activities, Khan recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC and suggested that the Marcos administration should issue an executive order against red-tagging. Khan is the second UNSR to recommend the abolition of NTF-ELCAC./PT


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