VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Lacson shifts gears on UP-DND accord termination

Read this fact check in Filipino

From seeing "sense" in the Department of National Defense's (DND) unilateral termination of its 1989 accord with the University of the Philippines (UP), Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson now says it should "go back to the drawing board."

STATEMENT

In a Jan. 19 interview on ANC’s Headstart, the senator said he was “not sure of the legality” of DND’s move to abrogate the agreement on its own without prior coordination. Lacson went on to say:

“There is sense in the ... move taken by the president and [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana. Because during our red-tagging hearings in the Senate, it was established that, you know — not only UP in particular, other universities [as well] — talagang ‘yung recruitment nanggagaling doon sa mga estudyante … sila ‘yung masyadong na-radicalize to join the [New People’s Army (NPA)] (the recruitment really is from the students … they’re the ones who have been too radicalized to join the NPA).”

Source: ANC 24/7 official Youtube channel, 'Hotbed of recruitment': Lacson sees sense in abrogation of UP-DND accord, Jan. 19, 2021, watch from 2:37 to 3:45

He said given that UP, among other universities, is a “hotbed of recruitment” by the NPA — armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) — he “think[s] the security sector has studied all the factors involved before they acted on the matter.”

Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense, further called on the security sector to “come up with an agreement” with UP on “boundaries to be observed” following the termination to “prevent the move from negatively affecting the culture of academic freedom in the state university.”

FACT

About a week later, the senator modified his stance after a Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) posted on Jan. 22 an unverified list that falsely tagged some UP alumni to have been recruited by the NPA and have “died or [been] captured” by the military. (See Red-tagged UP alumni eye cyber libel, contempt charges vs AFP)

In a Jan. 25 interview on CNN Philippines, Lacson said that with recent developments, it would be “prudent” for Lorenzana to suspend the abrogation:

“I think, in the meantime, mas maganda na i-suspend na muna ‘yung termination ng (it would be better if [Lorenzana] suspends the termination of the) UP-DND accord and go back to the drawing board, hold a dialogue, and thresh out all the differences between the UP … and the DND establishment.”

Source: CNN Philippines official Facebook page, THE SOURCE: Pinky Webb speaks to Senator Ping Lacson, Jan. 25, 2021, watch from 10:49 to 11:45

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The 1989 UP-DND accord prohibits state forces from entering and conducting operations within UP campuses nationwide without prior notification given to university officials, among others. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What the unilateral termination of the UP-DND accord means)

To justify the abrogation of the agreement, Lorenzana claimed that a “number of UP students have been identified as members of the [CPP-NPA]” and that there is allegedly an “ongoing clandestine recruitment” in UP campuses nationwide by communist rebels.

In the same Jan. 25 interview, Lacson — who earlier said the security sector “has studied all factors” before taking action — said DND “based [its] decision … on what appears to be false information.”

Referring to the AFP’s now-deleted erroneous post, he said it “could have been disastrous” for the people falsely tagged by the military as NPA rebels and “even for the military [itself]” if the incident was not brought to public light.

(See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The dangers of red-tagging under the Anti-Terrorism Law; VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Why ‘red-tagging’ is dangerous)

The AFP had earlier apologized for what Lorenzana called an “unpardonable gaffe.” The secretary later announced on Jan. 28 that he was “relieving” Maj. Gen. Alex Luna of his post as deputy chief of staff for intelligence over the incident, following an internal investigation.

A former chief of the Philippine National Police, Lacson, in the same CNN Philippines interview, gave credit to the secretary and “the entire military establishment for openly accepting the mistake that they made.”

He said his committee will revisit the draft report on the two-day hearing it conducted on red-tagging late last year in light of recent events:

“Now that it appears na merong mga (there are) information and merong (there was a) decision (termination of the UP-DND accord) that was made based on false information by the military to the DND, so I think that’s good reason enough for … the committee or for the Senate to take a second look, once again, at the presentations and testimonies made during the hearings.”

Source: CNN Philippines official Facebook page, THE SOURCE: Pinky Webb speaks to Senator Ping Lacson, Jan. 25, 2021, watch from 8:35 to 8:57

The red-tagging hearings were prompted by statements of Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., chief of the AFP Southern Luzon Command and spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, in October 2020, seemingly red-tagging outspoken female celebrities.


Sources

ANC 24/7 official Youtube channel, 'Hotbed of recruitment': Lacson sees sense in abrogation of UP-DND accord, Jan. 19, 2021

Pinglacson.net, Lacson: Boundaries Should Be Observed After Ending 1989 UP Pact, Jan. 19, 2021

Armed Forces of the Philippines Information Exchange Facebook page, “Some of the UP students who became NPA (Died or Captured),” Jan. 22, 2021 (Archived)

CNN Philippines official Facebook page, THE SOURCE: Pinky Webb speaks to Senato Ping Lacson, Jan. 25, 2021

UP Office of the Student Regent official Twitter account, “ALERT: DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sent a letter to UP President Danilo Conception to notify its unilateral termination or abrogation of the UP-DND Accord…,” Jan. 18, 2021

Inquirer.net, AFP’s Civil-Military Office apologizes for list of UP alumni who ‘joined’ NPA, Jan. 24, 2021

CNN Philippines, AFP apologizes for red-tagging UP alumni, Jan. 24, 2021

Philstar.com, AFP apologizes for red-tagging UP alumni, Jan. 26, 2021

OneNews, ‘Unpardonable Gaffe’: UP Diliman Worries About Faulty Military Intel; AFP To Apologize After Red-Tagging Alumni, Jan. 25, 2021

Inquirer.net, Lacson to AFP: Censure those responsible for UP red-tagging gaffe, Jan. 25, 2021

Rappler, 'Unpardonable gaffe': Lorenzana says AFP to apologize for red-tagging UP alumni, Jan. 24, 2021

Delfin Lorenzana official Twitter account, “I am relieving MGen Alex Luna of his post as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2 effective today, 28 Jan 2021…,” Jan. 28, 2021

Senate.gov.ph, Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson, Accessed on Jan. 28, 2021

Pinglacson.net, Lacson: Prudent to Suspend UP-DND Accord Termination, Jan. 25, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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