Solons question recommended reinstatement of 2 generals sacked for red-tagging
MANILA, Philippines — “Did they give the same second chances to the so-called ‘nanlaban’ victims of Tokhang? What about the victims of the Bloody Sunday who were red-tagged?”
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite posed these questions as he and other members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives questioned the recommendation to reinstate Maj. Gen. Alex Luna and Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, both of whom were sacked for putting out an erroneous list of University of the Philippines alumni who had allegedly become communist guerrillas.
“While condemnable, the condonation of the two generals isn’t really peculiar for a regime that is known to be fond of recycling erring officials, even the corrupt ones,” Gaite said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that, after “exhaustively” studying the case, it was found that Luna and Arevalo were “not directly responsible” for the publication of the unverified list, which claimed that several now prominent UP graduates had joined the New People’s Army (NPA).
In recommending the reinstatement of the generals, Lorenzana said he believed in giving second chances.
But Gaite said the recommendation revealed that Lorenzana’s earlier statement that the military’s embarrassing gaffe was “unpardonable” was “but an empty and insincere rhetoric meant to appease public anger and nothing else.”
“It also proves that the ongoing crackdown against dissent and the red-tagging that comes with it, which the two generals were too eager to do sans proper vetting, is still more a priority than ensuring accountability, respect for the rule of law, and human rights,” Gaite said.
“And since fake news mongering and red-tagging is just a part of their daily work, it really does not come as a shock that they treat this incident lightly and consider those guilty of it worthy of second chances,” he added.
‘Dramatic, not reliable’
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, meanwhile, said Lorenzana was being “dramatic” in saying that the generals should be given a second chance.
“At the onset, I was not expecting that the officials would really be removed and go through a simulated investigation — because red-tagging is part of the policies of the NTF-ELCAC, of which the AFP is a part,” Castro said partly in Filipino.
The NTF-ELCAC is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and AFP stands for Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“On the other hand, in giving then a second chance, they’re admitting failure,” she added, using the word “kapalpakan” for “failure.”
Further, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago said Lorenzana could not be relied on to make his officers accountable.
“They’re implementing a double standard, and they really had no intention of holding red-taggers accountable. That’s because it has long been proven that it’s a military policy to red-tag recklessly,” Elago said in Filipino.
“All red-taggers and human rights violators should be held accountable – and the military leads in burdening citizens, especially those suffering from the [COVID-19] crisis because of the failure of this regime to respond to the pandemic,” she added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, for her part, pointed out that there should be command responsibility especially among members of the military, adding that the actions of the generals should not be exempted.
“If they don’t want their accusations that are without scientific basis to be doubted, their leaders should not let speculation and gossip get past them,” Cullamat said in Filipino.
Lorenzana himself fired Luna immediately after the release of the erroneous list last January, while Arevalo went on leave before he was relieved of his post.
The list of the names of UP alumni who supposedly died or were arrested in clashes with security forces was published on the social media page of Arevalo’s office last January. The list originated from Luna’s office.
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