CBCP confirms office to join NTF-ELCAC to ‘raise social, church issues’ in gov’t

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 1) – An office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has joined the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to present “social concerns and issues of the Church” that need to be addressed by the government, CBCP head Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan City confirmed on Friday.

“The said Commission [on Public Affairs] clarifies that they are engaging with the NTF-ELCAC precisely to address some Church issues vis-a-vis government, including the issue about the red-tagging of some cause-oriented groups and Church organizations by the said body,” David said in a statement.

“The said Commission also has the intention of providing moral-ethical approaches to dealing with the problem of insurgency,” David added.

The NTF-ELCAC earlier announced that the CBCP Commission on Public Affairs, headed by Imus Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista as chairman and Fr. Jerome Secillano as executive secretary, will take part as one of the private-sector representatives in the group.

“Aside from CBCP membership, we are working on a business sector representative to fill the other slot for a private representative in the NTF organization,” NTF-ELCAC Usec. Ernesto Torres Jr. told reporters Thursday.

Meanwhile, some social groups expressed alarm over the participation of CBCP in the anti-insurgency task force.

“The news comes heavy to us, as we have known a great deal of persons of faith within the CBCP who have spoken out against the measures so gleefully pushed by the NTF-ELCAC such as the Anti-Terrorism Act,” women’s group Gabriela said Friday in a statement.

“We are talking about a task force that has openly committed pernicious acts of red-tagging, vilification, defamation, harassment, justification of murder, and the perpetuation of countless lies against human rights advocates—including churchpersons,” it added.

In a separate statement, youth group Kabataan Party-list shared the same sentiment.

Mismong simbahan, kahit may separation of Church and State dapat, ay gusto nilang makontrol para pabanguhin ang kanilang imahe at magamit pa ang relihiyon at ang mga Catholic community para sa surveillance, redtagging at iba pang atake laban sa ordinaryong mamamayan,” it said.

[Translate: The NTF-ELCAC, although there is supposedly a separation of Church and State, wants to control the Church itself to clear up its image and to use religion and the Catholic community for surveillance, red-tagging and other attacks against ordinary citizens.]

In June, activists from the Cordillera People’s Alliance appealed to the Supreme Court to issue a writ of amparo against government agencies, including the NTF-ELCAC, and the police who allegedly engage in red-tagging.

Under EO 70, the NTF-ELCAC was formed to raise awareness and respond to the communist armed conflict in the country.