Military’s ‘NPA list’ greeted with jeers, jitters
MANILA, Philippines — It was a list that both evoked fear and drew a sneer.
Individuals and groups identified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), denounced their inclusion in the lineup posted online by the AFP.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned the “Red-tagging” of two of their colleagues, business and economic journalist Roel Landingin and Roberto “Bobby” Coloma, the bureau chief for Singapore and Malaysia of the Agence France-Presse news service.
“We all know too well of the often fatal consequences of Red-tagging. It does not matter whether the accusations leveled at targeted personalities or organizations are true or not. It is sufficient that they stand accused,” the group said.
Coloma and Landingin were among the 28 alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) who were falsely identified as NPA members who had since died or were captured.
The list was posted Friday on the Facebook page of the AFP Information Exchange, which is managed by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations (OJ-7).
It was captioned with a quote from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying: “We are not your enemies. We are here to protect our people, especially our youth.”
The Facebook post was later deleted, but a similar list on the AFP unit’s Twitter account was still up as of Saturday night. It has also been shared by at least a dozen Facebook pages belonging to other units of the Army, Air Force and Navy.
The Inquirer sought the AFP spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, for comment but there was no immediate response.
The AFP Information Exchange also posted the names and photos of 14 UP students allegedly recruited by the communist rebels and later killed in encounters with the military.
Netizens were quick to point out inaccuracies in the list, with one suggesting that the AFP do some fact-checking first.
“Please use your intelligence funds wisely. That comes from our taxes,” the comment read.
Also tagged on the list were the late stage and film director Behn Cervantes, playwright Liza Magtoto, lawyers Raffy Aquino and Alex Padilla, former Environment Undersecretary Elmer Mercado, former lawmaker and former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios and Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia president Liza Dacanay.
‘Playing cavalierly’ with lives
A number of those tagged held a press conference or issued statements on Saturday to protest their Red-tagging.
Magtoto said “I am not on the radar of the NPA and they are not on my radar. I’m from the theater scene and even during my acting days I was not cast as an NPA because I am feeble.”
Padilla said “I have never been with the NPA. I have been in government for 20 years or more, in the [Bureau of Customs], the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. In fact, I was the chair of the peace panel [negotiation].”
“I find that what the AFP Information Center [released is] despicable and they are playing cavalierly with our lives. They know that because of the antiterrorism law and Red-tagging … will do no good,” Padilla added.
‘I’m owed an apology’
Aquino, a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group which is questioning the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 before the Supreme Court, said “I remain unaffiliated with the NPA and by the grace of God, I remain alive and kicking. With the others in the list, I think I am owed an apology by the AFP in whose [page] the list first appeared.”
Landingin surmised that “obviously, somebody goofed in making up this error-riddled list apparently meant to justify the revocation of the UP-DND accord. If OJ-7 AFP is indeed behind the post, … the Armed Forces unit should just own up to its mistake and do a better job of arguing its point.”
Dacanay said “I will not take this lightly as we need to make the AFP accountable for actions that are libelous and potentially endangering and wreaking havoc on the lives of individuals like me who are living peaceful and meaningful lives as responsible citizens and advocates of democracy and sustainable development.”
Dacanay said further that the list was part of an “orchestrated campaign” against UP.
“This is not just a fight for UP but a fight for all universities,” she said.
UP chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, who was also at the press conference, said “This is the message that we send to all UP alumni: UP is under assault, UP’s academic freedom is under assault.”
In an open letter circulated online on Friday, Grace Albasin, mother of a UP student currently detained in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, assailed Lorenzana for identifying her daughter, Myles, as a communist rebel who was recently killed.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Lorenzana showed a list of what he said were UP students who had joined the NPA and were subsequently killed in combat.
‘Tool of terror’
Contrary to Lorenzana’s claims, the younger Albasin has been detained for almost three years now at the Dumaguete City Jail Female Dormitory, according to her mother.
“When I saw the list that showed Myles’ photo … I feared for my detained daughter’s as well as our family’s safety, given how, under this government, such lists have become a tool of terror, a mark of death,” Grace said in her letter.
She also pointed out that student Rachel Mae Palang, whom Lorenzana also identified as another slain rebel, was not from UP but from Velez College in Cebu.
“Mr. Lorenzana, have you no respect for the dead anymore? How can you continue rubbing salt on their families’ wounds every time you parade their faces like trophies? You say you are a parent, too. Do you even feel their pain?” the older Albasin wrote.
“You were once a soldier. Is there no more honor among warriors?” she said.
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