Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered on Tuesday, March 23, the reappointment of two generals whose offices were blamed for an erroneous list that red-tagged prominent alumni of the University of the Philippines, some of whom are teachers and former government officials.
In a memorandum to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Lorenzana directed him to issue orders “re-designating” Major General Alex Luna as AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence (J2) and Major General Benedict Arevalo as AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations (J7).
The memo obtained by Rappler showed Lorenzana basing his directive on the “verbal authority of the President.”
Asked for comment, Lorenzana confirmed his decision, telling reporters in a statement that he believed in second chances.
“Naniniwala ako sa second chances, lalo na kung nadamay lamang naman sila sa pagkukulang at pagkakamali ng iba. Bigyan natin sila ng panibagong pagkakataon na patunayan ang kanilang katapatan sa kanilang tungkulin,” Lorenzana said. (I believe in second chances especially if they were not directly involved in a problem caused by the mistakes of others. Let’s give them another chance to prove their loyalty in their responsibilities.)
Arevalo, whose J7 office ran the Facebook page that shared the erroneous list tagging 27 University of the Philippines (UP) alumni as communist rebels who have either died or been captured, took a leave of absence following the fiasco in January.
Before Arevalo’s leave, Lorenzana fired Luna – the military intelligence staff chief – over what the defense chief then described as an “unpardonable gaffe.”
Lorenzana explained on Tuesday that both officers were not directly responsible for the false list.
“I have exhaustively reviewed the case involving Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo and Maj. Gen. Alex Luna. From the reports submitted to me, I believe that both men were not directly responsible for the lapse over the publication of the unverified and unofficial list of UP students who have been linked with left-leaning groups,” Lorenzana said.
Why this matters
The red-tagging list caused a furor because those on the list included UP alumni who are journalists, teachers, and former government officials, among others. They include Alex Padilla, former president and CEO of the PhilHealth; Elmer Mercado, former undersecretary of the environment; and Marie Liza Dacanay, an Ateneo professor.
The false list also came after the Duterte government unilaterally terminated the 1989 UP-DND accord, which prohibits the police and military from entering the state university’s campuses without prior notice.
Arevalo and Luna were likewise the highest ranking AFP officers to vacate their posts over red-tagging.
In March, the Senate recommended the removal of Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr as the spokesperson of the government’s anti-insurgency task force because of the “unconstitutionality” of his appointment and his red-tagging ways that lawmakers say are hampering government’s efforts against the rebels. – Rappler.com