Major General Benedict Arevalo, Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations (CMO), J7, was relieved from his post effective Friday to give way to an impartial investigation over the publishing in social media of an erroneous list of University of the Philippines (UP) alumni who were allegedly recruited by the New People’s Army (NPA).
General Gilbert Gapay, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, ordered Arevalo’s relief after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sacked Major General Alex Luna, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2, last Thursday.
Gapay said the decision was made official by the Board of Generals (BOG) that also resolved to relieve Luna for the purposes of an investigation.
Gapay said he ordered an inquiry to determine the extent of responsibility and accountability of those involved in the erroneous post, and how the military can improve its systems of vetting and releasing of information.
It also seeks to determine what updates are needed in the military’s social media policy, and measures that may be instituted to prevent a repeat of the incident, he added.
The two generals’ reliefs came after the AFP Information Exchange’s Facebook account, handled by the AFP Office of Civil-Military Operations, published an erroneous list of UP alumni who were allegedly killed or captured during clashes between the military and the NPA. The list contained the names of some UP graduates who were not killed nor captured during armed encounters.
Arevalo took responsibility for the error and had offered to take a leave of absence pending the results of an investigation to determine how the list was published without proper validation.
But Lorenzana said Arevalo’s filing of leave of absence was “totally unnecessary” since the intelligence information came from Luna’s office, and Arevalo’s social media staff only published it.
“That is a laudable act of Major General Benedict Arevalo but totally unnecessary as I don’t think the case warrants a formal inquiry. It is an open and shut case: a list was given by an office to another office which proved to be garbage and coming from the intelligence division? As I said, it was an unpardonable gaffe,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana also said that the AFP remained unperturbed by the controversies it faces.
“I think the morale of the AFP is not adversely affected by the relief of MGen Luna. Everyone knows the principle of command responsibility: a commander is responsible for whatever his unit does or fails to do. My action means that every one knows this by heart and abides by it,” he said.
Luna has since been reassigned at the office of the AFP Chief of Staff while there is no word yet where Arevalo will be placed. Their deputies will serve as the chiefs of the offices they vacated in an acting capacity.
Despite the publishing of the erroneous list, Lorenzana said Luna and his office’s offense “does not warrant” a court martial.
The entire issue was an offshoot from the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-Department of National Defense accord nearly two weeks ago as part of the military’s intensified campaign against communist insurgency. The pact prevented state forces from entering the university’s premises without prior coordination.
Lorenzana had said that UP has become a “safe haven” for communist recruiters, a claim denied by UP President Danilo Concepcion.