Karapatan hits regulation of social media under terror law, continuing online attacks vs public and rights defenders

Instead of using the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act to “regulate” social media, human rights watchdog Karapatan strongly retorted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should “instead regulate and police the social media platforms of their own ranks and other law enforcement agencies, which have been known for spreading malicious lies and violent, terroristic threats against the public without letup and with rampant impunity.”

“The government, its military and police do not have any moral authority to ‘regulate’ the use of social media under the guise of counterterrorism when they have repeatedly weaponized social media to proliferate blatant and dangerous fabrications against activists and critics through red-tagging, or when local officials post violent ‘shoot-to-kill’ threats against the public — violent threats hewn directly from the president’s own violent and terroristic threats,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Yesterday, August 3, new AFP Chief of Staff Gilbert Gapay said that they would “capitalize” on the new law and that it should have “specific provisions… pertaining to the use of social media” in its implementing rules and regulations to supposedly combat terrorist activities on social media.

Palabay averred that “if the military really wants to ‘regulate’ social media use against terrorism, they should start by sanctioning their own men who, through their own social media accounts, have publicly and rabidly accused journalists of being linked to ‘terrorists’ for reporting on human rights groups and civil society organizations, or the accounts of police stations inciting violence against activists through red-tagging, or the ‘shoot-to-kill’ threats posted on the social media accounts of officials like Quezon City Task Force Disiplina’s Rannie Ludovica.”

Ludovica, who heads the task force, publicly posted on his Facebook account that those who would violate the quarantine measures in Quezon City are now “shoot-to-kill,” following the imposition of the two-week modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila. Ludovica and members of the Quezon City task force had previously drawn flak for mauling fish vendor Michael Rubuia, for allegedly failing to wear a face mask in public. 

The Karapatan official asserted that any proposal to “regulate” the use of social media under the Anti-Terrorism Act “is very much tantamount to Marcosian censorship, which is already sending a chilling effect to the public given the track record of the military and police in tagging government critics as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorists sympathizers,’ while officials like Ludovica who actually publish terroristic threats on their social media accounts can get away unpunished or unsanctioned — if not for the loud outcry and condemnation of the public.”

“This fascist regime is desperately seeking all means to silence dissent while coddling officials who incite State violence and terrorism against critics, activists, and the larger public. We assert that the government’s terror law is unconstitutional, it cannot be used to regulate any exercise of our rights — and we will continue to fight back against any and all efforts to stifle and muffle the people’s resistance to this regime’s terrorist and tyrannical rule,” she ended.