By Macon Araneta

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on January 25 welcomed the apology of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over an erroneous list of UP students allegedly turned New People’s Army (NPA) members published in an AFP-affiliated social media page.

“We must remember that a politicized and unprofessional armed forces during the time of Marcos resulted to disunity and coup plots in the 80s and 90s,” he said.

On January 24, the AFP Civil-Military Operations Office apologized for “inconsistencies” in the list of students who allegedly joined the NPA published in the Facebook page Armed Forces of the Philippines Information Exchange.

According to a fact-check by Rappler, at least 12 Facebook pages with links to the military shared the list on January 21. The list was titled, “Some of the UP students who became NPA (died or captured).”

However, at least eight people listed are alive and have neither been captured nor proven to be NPA.

“If this goes unpunished, if nobody would be answerable for this, it’s possible this will happen again. Bad eggs should never be left unpunished,” Pangilinan said.

According to the opposition senator, this is not the first time the AFP published unvetted lists of alleged NPA on social media. Last week, a list of UP alumni allegedly recruited by the NPA was also posted by the same Facebook page.

A lawyer whose name was included in the list sought an apology from the AFP to which Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana agreed Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said recent developments involving decisions based on “false” information may merit at least a suspension of the Defense department’s decision to end its agreement with UP. 

Lacson said this after DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana apologized for an “unpardonable gaffe” involving the military’s list of UP students supposedly recruited by the NPA and killed or captured in clashes.

“I think it is prudent now for Sec. Delfin Lorenzana to at least suspend the termination of the UP-DND accord and hold a dialogue as he already mentioned he would do,” Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

But Lacson added Lorenzana and the military establishment “should also be given credit for openly accepting the mistake they made,” adding it “takes a lot of humility particularly for Sec. Lorenzana to publicly apologize for the AFP’s blunder.”

“At the very least, the one responsible for submitting that kind of information and the one who made the announcement should be sanctioned,” said Lacson.

“They should be made to explain and they should really be sanctioned by the AFP leadership if not the DND. Not only for putting the defense establishment in an awkward and embarrassing position but more so, the possible dire consequences that could occur because of such irresponsible and imprudent act,” he also said.

“We will have to ask the military to submit additional documents to validate reports on the personalities which they claimed during the committee hearings we conducted were killed, and if they were actually students of the universities mentioned by Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and the other witnesses presented by the AFP,” Lacson said.

Naiba ang complexion based on these recent developments. Without these new developments, the committee would have relied on the testimonies and presentations made by the AFP which were not specifically rebutted by the other resource persons,” he added.

Lacson also said criminalizing red-tagging remains a serious consideration, given recent developments.

“Possible consequences could have been disastrous on the part of these people and even the military for that matter, since the troops on the ground could rely solely on the decision being made in headquarters based on false intelligence information,” he said.