SEVERAL alumni of the University of the Philippines (UP) held a virtual press conference on Saturday, January 23, 2021, to show that they are very much alive contrary to the military’s claim that they had died during operations against the communists’ armed group New People’s Army (NPA).
In a press conference organized by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition, the UP alumni denied that they joined the NPA and denounced the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for red-tagging.
In a message to reporters, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the AFP will apologize.
He said he has asked a friend to facilitate a meeting with UP President Danilo Concepcion next week.
Marie Liza Dacanay, president of the Institute for Entrepreneurship in Asia, said she is looking at filing charges against the AFP for releasing such “fake news”.
“I will not take this lightly as we need to make the AFP accountable for actions that are libelous and potentially endangering and wreaking havoc on the lives of individuals like me who are living a peaceful and meaningful life,” she said.
Liza Magtoto, a playwright and a former head of UP Lipunang Pangkasaysayan, said the AFP should issue a public apology and clear their names.
She said their jobs and security were compromised by the release of the list, which included her name and those of several other alumni who have allegedly died or been captured by authorities during operations against the NPA.
Lawyer Alexander Padilla said he has never been with the NPA.
Padilla, a former head of UP Law student government and a government peace negotiator, described the AFP information management center as despicable.
“I've never been with the NPA. I have been with the government for 20 years or more. Kaya talagang nakakatawa kung hindi naman nakakalungkot itong listahan ng AFP,” said Padilla.
Magtoto said she was in theater and will never qualify for the role of an NPA fighter because she was “lampa” (weak).
“Wala po ako sa radar ng NPA at wala rin sila sa radar ko,” she said.
Rafael Angelo Aquino, a former UP student councilor who is now a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group, said he cannot afford to join the communist group as he is not very intelligent and he had to focus on his studies.
“Hindi naman ako masyadong matalino kaya kinailangan kong mag-aral talaga so walang pagkakataong sumapi sa NPA. At dahil hindi ako NPA, hindi naman ako na-capture. At sa awa ng Diyos, hindi rin totoo na napatay ako,” he said.
The AFP released a list of UP students who were recruited by the NPA, including some of them who were allegedly killed during police or military operations against the NPA, following the protests against the unilateral termination of the UP-DND accord.
The accord, forged in 1989, prevents police and military personnel from entering UP campuses without coordination with the UP administration.
Lorenzana terminated the agreement effective January 15, 2021 purportedly to protect the safety of the students against the recruitment activities of the NPA.
Lorenzana said he will only meet with the UP administration for a dialogue if the latter can explain how they were not able to protect their students from being recruited by the communist rebels. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)