MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana wants the military to apologize to a lawyer who was mistakenly included in a list of University of the Philippines (UP) graduates identified on its social media post as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines also claimed that the graduates were subsequently killed or captured in combat operations.
The list posted on Facebook and Twitter was taken down by Sunday. It drew ridicule, as well as concern, however, over the implications of Red-tagging.
A number of those named held a news conference on Saturday to denounce the list. (See related stories on Page A4.)“The Armed Forces of the Philippines will apologize,” Lorenzana said in response to lawyer Rafael Aquino’s call for an apology after his name appeared on the list.
“What reason will they give? I do not know. It’s an unpardonable gaffe,” the defense chief said in a message to reporters on Sunday.
Lorenzana also had an apparent change of heart over the weekend and expressed his intention to hold a dialogue with UP president Danilo Concepcion, with or without the explanation he sought from him for the UP students who, he claimed, were recruited into the NPA and killed in encounters with the military.
The defense chief said he had asked “a friend” to facilitate a meeting with Concepcion “sometime next week.”
Lorenzana said “a lot of people whom he respects” convinced him to talk with the university president over his termination of the 1989 UP agreement with the Department of National Defense (DND), which bars security forces from UP campuses without prior approval from university authorities. But he did not identify them.
On Jan. 15, Lorenzana wrote to Concepcion, informing him of the termination of the agreement. He later described the accord as obsolete and had outlived its purpose.
He said the agreement made UP a recruitment hub for the NPA.
In a statement on Sunday, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said “it is sad that some in the AFP are giving the institution a bad name and tainting its professionalism.”
“We cannot afford to have a politicized and unprofessional AFP. Let us not forget that it was the glaring lack of professionalism in the AFP that caused it to turn against itself during the last years of the Marcos regime,” Pangilinan said.
“Those in the military who are doing this must stop the practice of Red-tagging. Falsely labeling people makes them targets of harassment and, worst, killings,” said the senator, who once headed the UP student council. —WITH A REPORT FROM DJ YAP INQ