"Military officials aren’t winning any hearts and minds with a strident anti-communist propaganda campaign."
Contrary to what they might believe, military officials aren’t winning any hearts and minds with a strident anti-communist propaganda campaign—and the sooner they realize this, the sooner they can get back to their real job of defending the country.
Their latest misstep was the release through a Facebook page named “Armed Forces of the Philippines Information Exchange” a list of 27 names of former University of the Philippines (UP) students who they said either died or joined the New People’s Army (NPA).
The list included Free Legal Assistance Group member Raffy Aquino, business journalist Roel Landingin and Roberto Coloma, the bureau chief for Singapore and Malaysia of the Agence France-Presse news service.
Using a broad brush, the military officials also red tagged the late activist and director Behn Cervantes, Carlos Palanca playwright awardee Liza Magtoto, former Integrated Bar of the Philippine president Roan Libarios, lawyer Alex Padilla, former Environment undersecretary Elmer Mercado and Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia president Liza Dacanay.
The list was roundly criticized.
A number of in the AFP list held a press conference or issued statements on Saturday to protest the red tagging.
“I am not on the radar of the NPA and they are not on my radar. I’m from the theater scene and even during my acting days I was not cast as an NPA because I am feeble,” Magtoto said.
Padilla said: “I have never been with the NPA. I have been in government for 20 years or more, in the [Bureau of Customs], the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. In fact, I was the chair of the peace panel [negotiation].”
He called the AFP Information Center’s action “despicable.”
“They are playing cavalierly with our lives,” he said.
Aquino said: “I remain unaffiliated with the NPA and by the grace of God, I remain alive and kicking. With the others in the list, I think I am owed an apology by the AFP.”
Dacanay said the AFP must be made accountable for actions that are libelous and potentially endangering the lives of people like her, “who are living peaceful and meaningful lives as responsible citizens and advocates of democracy and sustainable development.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned the red-tagging of two of their colleagues, Landingin and Coloma.
“We all know too well of the often fatal consequences of red-tagging. It does not matter whether the accusations leveled at targeted personalities or organizations are true or not. It is sufficient that they stand accused,” the group said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who already stirred up a hornet’s nest last week by unilaterally ending a 30-year pact with the UP that kept military and police forces out of the campus, said the AFP would apologize to people falsely included in the list. No such apology, however, has been issued.
The list posted on a page managed by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, was later deleted, but not before it was shared by Facebook pages belonging to other units of the Army, Navy and Air Force. A similar list appeared on an AFP Twitter account.
The AFP Information Exchange also posted the names and photos of 14 UP students allegedly recruited by the communist rebels and later killed in encounters with the military.
On Friday, Grace Albasin, mother of a UP student currently detained in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, criticized Lorenzana for identifying her daughter, Myles, as a communist rebel who was recently killed.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Lorenzana showed a list and photos of what he said were UP students who had joined the NPA and were subsequently killed in combat.
But contrary to his claims, she said, Myles has been detained for almost three years now at the Dumaguete City Jail Female Dormitory.
“Mr. Lorenzana, have you no respect for the dead anymore? How can you continue rubbing salt on their families’ wounds every time you parade their faces like trophies? You say you are a parent, too. Do you even feel their pain?” the older Albasin wrote in an open letter circulated online.
“You were once a soldier. Is there no more honor among warriors?”