Progressive mass organizations in the Philippines expressed alarm over the designation of Vice President Sara Duterte, already serving as the Secretary of Education, as co-vice chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), pointed out that Sara Duterte’s entry into the NTF-Elcac is a maneuver of the Duterte family to wrest more power in the Marcos administration.

Ronnel Arambulo, spokesperson of PAMALAKAYA, a national movement of fisherfolk in the Philippines, said, “With the designation of Sara Duterte, a notorious Red-tagger, as a co-vice chairperson of NTF-Elcac, there is more reason to demand its abolition. The appointment of VP Duterte could intensify and institutionalize the task force’s terror-labeling spree of cause-oriented organizations and democratic activists.” 

Raymund Basilio, Secretary General of The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines, said that with Vice President Duterte’s appointment to the NTF-Elcac, “her Red-tagging activities will just get worse and will continue to undermine teachers’ freedom of association and human rights.”

Human rights group Karapatan condemned said designation of Sara Duterte saying it “reinforces the fascist character of this task force…(This) shows the greater need for the abolition of this task force that has been responsible for numerous cases of human rights violations.”

Marco Valbuena, the Chief Information Officer of the CPP, in a statement published 11 May, 2023, said “In all likelihood, Sara Duterte’s questionable appointment by Duterte’s cohorts in the NTF-Elcac, is a maneuver to ingratiate herself to the AFP and security forces. It is a form of warning against Marcos not to use his powers to reduce the influence of the Duterte clique, especially in the security sector.”

Among other indications, Valbuena pointed out that the timing of her ascent in the NTF-Elcac hierarchy comes while the ruling Marcos clique is busy reorganizing the PNP to remove the key officers appointed by Sara’s father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, and when Duterte-appointed loyalists in the AFP are set to retire, and while Marcos was overseas.

Valbuena warned, “Notorious for her militarist and fascist mindset, as well as for ambitions to become president, Sara Duterte fits in well in the NTF-Elcac, than in the Department of Education. …In almost everything, Sara Duterte’s addresses issues by silencing those who voice out and seek solutions to the people’s problems.”