AFP apologizes for red-tagging UP alumni

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 24) - The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Sunday apologized to the University of the Philippines alumni who were included in a list of alleged New People's Army recruits.

“We sincerely apologize for those who were inadvertently affected by inconsistencies regarding the List of Students who joined NPA (Died or Captured) that was posted in the AFP Information Exchange Facebook account,” read the statement.

“The Office of the J7, AFP is already conducting an internal investigation as to how the list got published. Personnel who are responsible will be held to account,” the AFP added.

The apology just came hours after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana acknowledged the mistake committed by the military, branding it an “unpardonable gaffe.”

Atty. Raffy Aquino, a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group and was included in the list, earlier demanded a public apology from the AFP.

The AFP Information Exchange recently posted in its page a list of UP students allegedly captured and killed after joining the communist rebels group. The post went viral not just on Facebook, but also on other social media platforms.

The post was later taken down after a backlash.

On Saturday, Aquino with other UP alumni said they would take legal actions against the "red-tagging" by the AFP.

“The members of the group are consulting and definitely, we want to hold people accountable for this reckless publication of a list and our malicious inclusion in that list,” he said during a media briefing.

Aquino said they were looking at filing cyber libel and the "angle of contempt" given that some of those listed, like him, are currently involved in the ongoing litigation of the Anti-Terrorism Act before the Supreme Court.

Lorenzana seeks dialogue with UP

Also on Sunday, the Defense chief asked UP to help the government put an end to the alleged communist recruitment activities on its campuses — a claim which the university maintained lacks factual evidence.

Lorenzana said his decision to unilaterally terminate the DND’s deal with UP is a “fulfilment of a patriotic duty,” repeating his earlier statement that the move is meant to protect the youth from what he called enemies of the state. In a letter made public last week, he informed UP President Danilo Concepcion that the UP-DND accord, which bars the unauthorized entry of state forces in UP campuses, was abrogated as of Jan. 15.

READ: UP accord terminated to protect Filipinos vs 'enemies of the state' – Lorenzana

“Our problem with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army) has been with us for 52 years,” Lorenzana said in a taped statement addressed to the UP community. “Help me fix this. Let us talk and find ways to end this insurgency once and for all. Let us work together and move forward.”

Lorenzana told reporters that he has already “asked a friend” to facilitate a meeting with Concepcion “sometime next week.” He previously said he is open to a dialogue with UP only if the university officials would explain the presence of students in military encounters with rebel groups.

While Concepcion already expressed his willingness to discuss the matter with authorities, he has also denounced the allegations of communist recruitment in UP, saying these “pose a very real danger” to the lives of UP members. He maintained that the institution has always been a safe space for free thought and expression, as well as for criticism and dissent, and vowed to continue to defend the institution “from all attacks and machinations” against its academic freedom.

On the other hand, UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo called on the whole UP community to stand up for academic freedom and civil liberties following the red-tagging of some of its alumni.

“Let us join the fight to stop any form of baseless red-tagging and to protect the enabling environment for freedom of thought and expression, that has nurtured critical minds, social consciousness and a sense of service and nation-building that have become the hallmarks of our University’s tradition of education,” said Nemenzo.