Karapatan to Congress, CHR: Investigate social media accounts linked to China-based individuals, military and police

Human rights watchdog Karapatan called on the Congress and the Commission on Human Rights to look into all the official social media accounts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), as well as those of their top officials and government-organized non-government organizations or GONGOs, in light of Facebook’s recent takedown of accounts, pages and Instagram accounts linked to the AFP and PNP violating their policy of coordinated inauthentic behavior. 

Karapatan issued its call after former PNP chief and Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa filed a resolution calling on the Senate to investigate Facebook’s alleged “censorship” affecting “peace and order,” the country’s “security,” and “freedom of expression.” 

“Such acts by Senator dela Rosa only attempt to distract the public on the urgent questions that need to be answered: Who are funding these networks and organizations? Are public funds involved in these activities? Why shouldn’t we hold an accounting of all the official pages of government agencies and of government officials and personnel involved in what seems to be a coordinated machinery of mass deception to vilify and incite State violence against government critics, activists, and human rights defenders?” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asked.

“Why are government funds being wasted for these acts which violate government’s responsibility to protect the rights of individuals and groups, even of those who disagree with its policies and programs? How much public funds and resources are poured into support for GONGOs, which Duterte has inadvertently admitted are part of the government’s propaganda machinery? Investigations on these issues are far more imbued with public interest and accountability,” Palabay continued.

The Karapatan officer also urged the members of the Congress to investigate the alleged involvement of individuals based in Fujian, China in promoting and spreading content on Facebook supporting the potential run of President Rodrigo Duterte and Sara Duterte in the 2022 Presidential election. She asserted that “it is important to get to the bottom of these issues to ascertain the facts behind the possible abuse of social media platforms such as Facebook to unduly influence elections in the Philippines and the use of public funds for such activities, as well as the use of government resources to foment lies and incite harm on government critics.”

“If these issues remain unaddressed and if such acts continue, serious questions on the credibility of the 2022 elections will hound this supposed democratic exercise,” Palabay stated.

“Those who shamelessly use their public offices and positions to engage in red-tagging and who encourage human rights violations against activists and human rights defenders should be held to account. They are equally responsible for the killings, arrests, and threats against those defending people’s rights,” she concluded.