Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged Congress to investigate the recent instances of red-tagging of University of the Philippines (UP) alumni by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) following the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-Department of National Defense (UP-DND) accord.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 628 last Feb. 1, De Lima lamented how the AFP continues to make false or misleading statements and sweeping generalizations against law-abiding citizens to support their pre-formed conclusions against its perceived enemies.
“These instances of red-tagging and spreading of misinformation are no longer uncommon as it forms part of the Duterte administration’s strategy to end the decades-old communist insurgency in the Philippines,” she said.
“In recent months, these red-tagging campaigns have gone on to target peasant leaders, indigenous peoples, activists and human rights defenders, among others,” she added.
Last Jan. 22, a Facebook post by the AFP Information Exchange falsely listed 27 people as supposedly “UP students who became NPA (died or captured).”
The post, which has since been taken down, featured at least eight individuals who are either journalists, former government officials, lawyers, teachers, or entertainment personalities and have no proven association whatsoever with the NPA.
Following the publication of the error-riddled list of alleged NPA members which received nationwide backlash, the military apologized for the gaffe while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana relieved MGen. Alex Luna from his post as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2, effective last Jan. 28.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, said there is a need to conduct an independent investigation to determine who allowed for the creation and release of such false and malicious information and hold them accountable.
“This exercise by the AFP is tantamount to grasping at straws and distracts the public from other more pressing issues, such the government’s plan to resuscitate our economy and the national COVID-19 vaccination program,” she said.
The lady Senator from Bicol further underscored “the need to introduce safeguards in order to protect, promote and guarantee the enjoyment of academic freedom in higher institutions of learning as enshrined in the Constitution.”
Pursuant to Republic Act No. 9500, otherwise known as the “University of the Philippines Charter of 2008”, UP is designated as the country’s national university and declares that it has the right and responsibility to exercise academic freedom.
The Duterte administration, through DND, ended the government’s decades-long accord with UP that prevented state forces from entering its campuses without notifying the university administration in a letter to UP President Danilo Conception dated Jan. 15. (30)