NTF-ELCAC’s continued red-tagging makes AFP apology deceptive

Alex Padilla, one of the 28 University of the Philippines students and alumni in the list of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “who became NPA (died or captured),” noted that the unsigned apology of the AFP Information Center that released the erroneous and egregious list is” hardly one.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, whose image as one of the decent few in the Duterte cabinet has been dented with that list, has relieved AFP’’s Deputy Director for Intelligence, Major General Alex Luna for what he called, “an unforgivable lapse.”

“It is a good first step but it may not be nearly enough,” said Padilla whose stint with the government includes having been Philhealth president and chief executive officer and chief negotiator in the peace process with the communist rebels.

Padilla raised several questions that the government should answer: “Why such lists are even made and published? Why the practice of red tagging still persists within the AFP and dossiers still gathered and kept forty years since? Why must lives be endangered, reputations and livelihood imperiled as a consequence of baseless allegations without due process?”

The AFP and Lorenzana’s apology and promise to institute measures to ensure that such blunder will not happen again are not only inadequate but even deceptive because the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) continues its red-tagging spree of colleges and universities.

In an interview on GMA News’ Super Radyo dzBB, following the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND accord regulating police and military operations inside UP campuses. Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr., NTF-ELCAC spokesman, named more schools, aside from UP, that, he said, are recruitment haven for communists.

Some of the schools named have issued statements denying NTF-ELCAC’s allegations:

President Emmanuel Leyco of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) said in a Facebook post that the “The PLM administration is not aware of any recruitment by the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) on campus nor had it been previously advised by the authorities of such activities.”

The allegation, he said, is an “insult” to the PLM community – “a serious disservice to the men and women of the PLM and comes at a very bad time when its faculty, students and staff are struggling with the challenges of online education.”

“Such distraction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed reprehensible,” Leyco said.

The Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and the Far Eastern University released a joint statement Parlade’s latest allegation:

“This charge, though, is really ‘getting old’– a rehash of the public accusation the general made in 2018 –irresponsibly since cast without proof,” the statement said.

“We therefore object to General Parlade’s statement and emphasize that our institutions neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the New People’s Army and, indeed, of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government.”

The joint statement said they “value the Filipino’s basic Constitutional rights of speech, thought assembly, and organization.”

“And as institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions.”

They underscored their responsibility “to promote learning and safeguard the rights of the young who are entrusted to our care.”

Bukidnon State University (BukSU) community was most surprised to find themselves in NTF-ELCAC’s list.

BukSU released a statement assuring the public that it is committed to help keep the countryside peaceful and progressive through quality higher education.

“As a state university, BukSU promotes academic freedom and the core values of excellence, professionalism, integrity, commitment and culture sensitivity among its students so they become peace-loving, innovative, and ethical leaders.

“The university does not support any illegal activities and has not permitted any of its offices, faculty and staff to engage in any activity that serves the interest of any party or group such as the CPP-NPA.

“The university has been and will continue to be a safe place for learning. The administration has put in place policies and mechanisms to ensure that the students are allowed only to engage in activities in line with developing competencies in their chosen field,” the statement said.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.