Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered the firing of AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Maj. Gen Alex Luna for releasing a false list of New People’s Army (NPA) members. The names were supposedly past University of the Philippines (UP) students who are now either dead or jailed.
“I am relieving MGen Alex Luna from his post as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2, effective today (28 Jan 2021). The publication of an erroneous list, originating from his office OJ2, of alleged NPA killed by the military is an unforgivable lapse,” Lorenzana’s statement read.
“His negligence only shows a lackadaisical attitude towards his job resulting to confusion and damage to reputation. We do not take these offenses lightly and I want to hold the people involved accountable.”
The AFP Intelligence Exchange Facebook page took down the list but not before screenshots were shared countless times on social media.
Public reaction was divided—with mostly trolls praising its release and others lambasting the AFP for using erroneous intelligence as justification for the Jan. 15 abrogation of the UP-DND Accord of 1989, which bars the military and police from entering UP campuses without the school’s authorization.
Some of the red-tagged UP alumni held an online forum on Jan. 24, saying the list has endangered their lives and their families.
Six of the names on the list— lawyer Alex Padilla, journalist Roel Landingin, playwright Lisa Magtoto, former DENR Undersecretary Elmer Mercado, lawyer Raffy Aquino, and social entrepreneur Marie Liza Dacanay—were students at UP Diliman from the mid-70s to the early ‘80s. They admitted that while they were activists during their UP years, they never joined the NPA.
UP Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo voiced his incredulity over the list, saying, “After all the millions poured into military intelligence, I do not understand how they came up with a list like this.”
DND, from which the counter-insurgency program of the AFP draws its funds, has a budget of P205.8 billion this year, according to the Department of Budget and Management.
The UP alumni said that this was all a distraction to three things that the government doesn’t want the public to talk about: the P15-billion PhilHealth corruption, the Anti-Terror Act of 2020, and the termination of the UP-DND Accord on Jan. 15, made public only on Jan. 18.
“It’s sloppy, it’s dangerous,” said Padilla of the erroneous AFP list. “It’s a crackdown on dissent itself. It’s not just UP, it’s other schools too, and it will overflow to the rest of society. UP is just the front act.”
Padilla worked in government for more than 20 years, at the Bureau of Customs, DOH, DILG and PhilHealth under previous administrations.
The AFP apologized on Jan. 24 for red-tagging the UP alumni. “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 Facebook post said.
Journalist Roel Landingin said the AFP “probably went through the archives containing names of student leaders in the ‘80s.” And that this was a dangerous practice since the military bases its operations on such intelligence.
He highlighted the broader issue of military operations in communities—not just in academe. “Gusto nilang pasukin ang UP to operate more freely, to establish precedent. If they’re going to succeed in UP, where they can enter and arrest anyone on campus, how much more in, say, rural communities?”
The AFP has also previously—and repeatedly—made false claims about some Metro Manila universities being “recruitment grounds” and “havens” for communists. Including a non-existent university in 2018.
Oblation in banner photo from the UP Office of the Student Regent Facebook page