AFP: Soldiers behind wrong list of UP students-turned-rebels already admonished
MANILA, Philippines—An undisclosed number of military personnel at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) civil military operations office (CMO) had been “admonished” for posting an erroneous list of University of the Philippines (UP) alumni who had joined New People’s Army (NPA) which was meant to support military and defense officials’ claim that UP was a bedrock of communist rebel recruitment.
Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, deputy chief of staff for CMO, said some of the office’s personnel had been at least reprimanded while results of an investigation were being awaited.
“The investigation and report are not complete yet,” Arevalo said. “But of course we have already admonished some here at the minimum so let’s see what other actions can be taken,” he told reporters, speaking partly in Filipino.
He declined to say how many had been reprimanded but said they belong to the CMO’s social media team.
“We’ll see what other, if there are, punishments or whatever will be meted,” he said.
The AFP on Sunday (Jan. 24) issued an apology for the release of a list of UP alumni who had joined NPA which the military said would prove that UP was a hotbed of rebel recruitment. The post containing the list has since been deleted.
“We sincerely apologize for those who were inadvertently affected by inconsistencies regarding the List of Students who joined the NPA (Died or Captured) that was posted in the AFP Information Exchange Facebook account,” the AFP Information Exchange said on a Facebook post.
This Facebook account is supervised by the AFP’s J7 or deputy chief of staff for civil military operations.
An internal investigation of how the list was published was also ongoing. The AFP said men and officers responsible for it will be held to account.
“We want to assure the public that we are now reviewing our processes and procedures to ensure that similar incident will not happen again in the future,” the AFP said.
The post was taken down after a backlash from some people on the list.
Arevalo said he was issuing an apology for the erroneous list, but he said his unit would look for other ways to make up for the gaffe if the apology was not enough.
“If it will not suffice, then we will see our next option after that” Arevalo said.
“But of course we are truly sorry for those who were really inadvertently named. So we take responsibility for that,” he said.
Lawyer Raffy Aquino, a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group, who was on the list, said he and other UP alumni named by the military as students who had joined NPA are taking legal action against the AFP’s practice of red-tagging.
The names were posted a few days after the Department of National Defense unilaterally terminated a 1989 agreement with UP that barred entry of police or military in UP campuses without coordination with university officials.
The DND came under fire following the sudden termination of the agreement, which had been designed to prevent police or military from targeting student or teacher activists for their political beliefs.
Human rights groups and activists raised fears that the termination of the agreement would stifle academic freedom and freedom of expression in UP, considered as a bastion of activism.
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