Red-tagged lawyer says questions still remain on military's erroneous list
In this Oct. 27, 2020 photo, members of national women's alliance Gabriela stage a protest rally at the Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City denouncing red-tagging and to junk the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Red-tagged lawyer says questions still remain on military's erroneous list

(Philstar.com) - January 28, 2021 - 4:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — The sacking of the military’s intelligence chief over the publication of an erroneous list of red-tagging University of the Philippines alumni does not erase critical questions on the former student leaders’ inclusion in the said list in the first place.

Lawyer Rafael Aquino, member of the Free Legal Assistance Group, said he appreciates “pockets of relative sanity” within the security sector that are “apparently more sensitive to such principles as professionalism and accountability.”

This was after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorezana said he ordered the relief of Maj. Gen. Alex Luna as the armed forces deputy chief for intelligence over the publication of the incorrect list on its Facebook page.

Lorenzana called the publication of the erroneous list as “unforgivable lapse.”

But Aquino, whose name was one of the 28 listed as UP alumni who are either killed or captured and have joined the New People’s Army, said critical questions remain unanswered.

The rights lawyer pressed on what was the basis of the Luna’s office in including the 28 on the list and the objectives of drawing up such a list in the first place.

“Would this be to facilitate military targeting? What is the official thinking guiding generation of these lists and their use? Does the military still have dossiers on the political activities of conscientious Filipinos dating back to the 1970s and the 1980s?” he continued.

READ: IBP calls out military's 'ridiculous red-tagging' of lawyers

'What does this mean for activism?'

The list has since been taken down and the military has apologized for its publication, after some of UP students appeared alive and free in a press conference over the weekend. They have also denied links to communist rebels.

Although the list had already been removed, Aquino said he and his family continue to feel threatened about his inclusion on the list. He added that he is also worried on “what this portends for Filipino activism.”

“If this could be done to us, how much easier could a similar outrage be inflicted upon our countrymen who do not have the same access to media and legal resources, including ordinary students and their teachers?” he said.

“Not only is red-tagging a breach of international humanitarian laws and a direct threat to our right to security, it is also fatal to the free expression underpinning our democracy,” the rights lawyer added.

The publication of the erroneous list came days after the Department of National Defense unilaterally scrapped its pact with UP that bars state forces from entering its campuses without prior notice. This was largely seen as a move to further shrink spaces for activists and for dissent.

The Commission on Human Rights had earlier said that military’s gaffe is still concerning. “Similar lapses, if left unchecked, can put reputations and lives in serious danger,”lawyer Jacqueline de Guia, CHR spokesperson, said. — Kristine Joy Patag

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