Philippine Defense Chief Sacks Military Intelligence Official over Communist Supporters’ List

Aie Balagtas See
Manila
2021-01-28
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Philippine Defense Chief Sacks Military Intelligence Official over Communist Supporters’ List A banner at the University of the Philippines in Manila urges students and professors to defend academic freedom, Jan. 28, 2021.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

The Philippine defense secretary on Thursday sacked a senior military intelligence officer for publishing an erroneous list of former students of the University of the Philippines who had allegedly joined the outlawed communist movement. 

The list came from the office of the deputy chief of staff for intelligence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. Earlier this month, the defense chief ended a pact barring troops from the university’s Manila campus over purported concerns about it being a haven for communist insurgents.

“I am relieving Maj. Gen. Alex Luna of his post as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence … effective today, 28 Jan 2021,” Lorenzana said.

He said Luna was dismissed because of the list with names of people associated with the university – including alumni– who were suspected of having joined the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and later being captured or killed by government forces.

“The publication of an erroneous list, originating from his office OJ2, of alleged NPA killed by the military is an unforgivable lapse,” Lorenzana said.

“His negligence only shows a lackadaisical attitude towards his job resulting in confusion and damage to reputation(s). We do not take these offenses lightly and I want to hold the people involved accountable.”

It was not immediately clear who would replace Luna.

Lorenzana issued the statement days after the AFP apologized for the list, which contained the names of lawyers, activists, and journalists, among others.

Lorenzana said the list was passed on to different military departments, made its way to the Department of National Defense, and was posted on government social media accounts. He did not say why his office did not scrutinize the list.

Many members of the public called out the errors on the list and criticized the government for not investigating it thoroughly, despite having intelligence funds at its disposal.

Protests were also held at the university’s Manila campus to denounce the erroneous list and the ending of the agreement, which was meant to protect students and professors from government persecution for their political beliefs.

In his letter to the university dated Jan. 15, Lorenzana had said the university had been sympathetic to the cause of the outlawed CPP and NPA, therefore the Department of National Defense would terminate the agreement.

Students’ outspokenness on issues, such as President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, had caused the campus to fall out of favor with his administration. Duterte had threatened to defund the university, and accused its students of spending more time away from their classrooms to protest in the streets.

“The country’s premier state university has become a safe haven for enemies of the state,” Lorenzana said, a day after the agreement’s termination was announced.

“The Department of National Defense will neither renege nor shirk on its duty to protect the rights of the majority. It will not tolerate those who will violate the laws of the land in the guise of lawful public dissent, free assembly and free speech,” Lorenzana said at the time.

Danilo Concepcion, the university’s president, had said the government did not consult his office about terminating the agreement. He called Lorenzana’s move “totally unnecessary and unwarranted.”

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