UP Diliman chancellor slams AFP’s red-tagging of alumni

Published January 25, 2021, 11:07 AM

by Gabriela Baron

The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) red-tagging of its alumni. 

(Photo courtesy of College Editors Guild of the Philippines)

“It is unthinkable that despite the millions of taxpayers’ money poured into military intelligence, the AFP is making such baseless accusations, in the process violating the civil liberties and putting at risk the lives of responsible citizens who are actively contributing to nation-building in their chosen professions,” Nemenzo said in a statement Sunday (Jan. 24). 

In a Facebook post, the AFP Information Exchange named 27 individuals as alleged “UP students who became NPA (dead or captured).” 

The list included late artist and activist Behn Cervantes, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Rafael Aquino, journalists Roel Landingin and Roberto Coloma, former Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) president and CEO Alexander Padilla, Carlos Palanca awardee playwright Liza Magtoto, Ateneo de Manila University faculty member Marie Liza Dacanay, former undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Elmer Mercado, and Libra Law founder Roan Libarios. 

Although the post has been taken down, Nemenzo said “the damage has been done.” 

“More disturbingly, the list presents itself as only partial, identifying only ‘some’ UP students. We are concerned that the AFP may be harboring a database of a much longer list of UP students across many years, wrongly and similarly accused as NPA like these student leaders who were our students some forty years ago,” he added. 

Nemenzo expressed concern over “a military database that is riddled with factual errors” as it may unduly become the basis for overt and covert military action against UP students and alumni. 

The chancellor called on the UP community to join their fight in asserting academic freedom and civil liberties and stop the baseless red-tagging against its students and alumni. 

Nemenzo also urged universities similarly identified as “hotbeds of communist recruitment” to prevent campus militarization and assert an enabling environment for critical thought and academic excellence. 

Meanwhile, the AFP Information Exchange on Sunday apologized to “those who were inadvertently affected” by the false list. 

The agency said it is already conducting an internal investigation as to how the list got published. 

The post came after the Department of National Defense (DND) unilaterally terminated the 1989 UP-DND accord, which prohibits state forces from entering the university premises without prior notice to the UP administration. 

“We reiterate our call for DND Secretary Lorenzana and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to restore the 1989 UP-DND Agreement and enjoin them to a dialogue that would ensure we can work together to effectively secure our campuses from acts of violence to effectively secure our campuses from acts of violence, coercion, and terrorism that have no place in the university,” Nemenzo said. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is ready to adjudicate the dispute between the National Defense (DND) and the University of the Philippines (UP) over the cancellation of the accord that has prevented police and military from entering the learning institution’s campuses without prior coordination. 

“The SOJ (secretary of justice), as attorney general, does not issue legal opinions or commence administrative adjudication proceedings unless requested by heads of government agencies or other state instrumentalities,” Guevarra explained. (With a report from Jeffrey G. Damicog)