Military sorry after UP alumni tagged as slain rebels show up alive
This screengrab from a January 23, 2021 press conference held by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition featuring UP alumni supposedly captured or killed as communist rebels.
Right to Know Right Now Coalition Facebook page

Military sorry after UP alumni tagged as slain rebels show up alive

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - January 25, 2021 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines has apologized for a list it published over the weekend that incorrectly tagged University of the Philippines alumni among students allegedly killed or arrested after joining the New People’s Army.

Among the people tagged were lawyers and former government officials.

"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," it said in a statement posted Sunday night.

The military office said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is already looking into how the list was published, adding that personnel responsible will be held liable.

"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," it added.

List follows claim that UP is haven for communist rebels

Days after the Department of National Defense unilaterally scrapped its pact with UP that bars state forces from entering its campuses without prior notice, the AFP Information Exchange page published a list of 28 UP alumni who, they claimed, went on to join the NPA and were later killed or captured.

But many of those who have been tagged in the list denied that they joined the NPA or that they were arrested.

Some people on the list, former student leaders, appeared on an online briefing on Saturday to deny the allegations, including the claim that they had been killed. 

'Damage already done'

UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo on Sunday expressed concern over the military infographic that tagged former student leaders “who have become outstanding professionals in the chosen fields… whom the University of the Philippines is proud to have helped nurture.”

“It is unthinkable that despite the millions of taxpayers’ money poured into military intelligence, the AFP is making such baseless accusations, in the process violating the civil liberties and putting at risk the lives of responsible citizens who are actively contributing to nation-building in their chosen professions,” Nemenzo added.

Included in the list are former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios, Free Legal Assistance Group lawyer Rafael Aquino, journalist Roberto Coloma and Roel Landingin, former health undersecretary Alex Padilla, Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia president Marie Liza Dacanay and Philippine Educational Theater Association members Liza Magtoto and Behn Cervantes.

Cervantes died in 2013 due to complications from pneumonia.

Nemenzo stressed that although the list had already been taken down, the damage has been done.

"We are concerned that the AFP may be harboring a database of a much longer list of UP students across many years, wrongly and similarly accused as NPA like these student leaders who were our students some forty years ago," he continued.

RELATED: What prompted the signing of the UP-DND accord in 1989?

The UP Diliman official added that with the UP-DND pact scrapped, there is fear that the military may launch operations inside campuses using a database base with factual errors.

This is not the first time that the Duterte government had wrongly tagged persons as communist groups on its social media pages nor in official lists.

In 2019, the Department of Justice filed a petition for proscription before a Manila court to declare 461 names and 188 aliases as alleged terrorists. The list includes rights workers and lawyers as well as United Nations experts.

While the state prosecutors later drastically cut down their extensive list to just eight names, some of those on the list reported harassment while some were killed.

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