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Facebook removes fake accounts linked to PNP and AFP

Fake social media accounts meant to mislead Filipinos and supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte are linked to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Facebook revealed.

In an announcement Tuesday, September 22, Facebook Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the company removed accounts found to have links with both government agencies.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police,” Facebook reported.

Gleicher said Facebook’s investigation found two separate networks originating from the Philippines and China that violate the company’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“We removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, 9 Groups and 6 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity,” Gleicher said.  

In the Philippines, Facebook removed 57 fake Facebook accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Gleicher explained the people behind the activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing.

He said that Facebook found the full scope of the activity after civil society in the country and news organization Rappler brought it to the company’s attention.

In support of the Dutertes

Facebook said that the networks focused on posting content supportive of Duterte and her daughter and Davao City mayor Sara Carpio’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential elections.

(Malacanan photo)

They also posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events, including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea and Hong Kong.

The fake accounts also uploaded criticisms of Rappler, issues relevant to overseas Filipino workers as well as praise and some criticism of China.

The network in the Philippines consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage pages, Facebook reported.

The operation appeared to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020, the company said.

“They posted in Filipino and English about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Gleicher said.  

The accounts spend around $1,100 for ads on Facebook that are paid for in Philippine peso, he added.

A post by one of the removed fake accounts. (Taken from the Facebook announcement)

How much are the PNP and AFP spending?

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed Facebook’s move it said is “a damning evidence of State-sponsored online attacks, red-tagging and mass deception in the social media platform.”

“We welcome Facebook’s move as urgently-needed action to put a halt on the worsening red-tagging and State-backed disinformation campaigns on the platform and we hope that Facebook can do more,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said it was among the organizations that complained to Facebook and the Commission on Human Rights through a June 9 letter.

The group said that the more pressing question, however, is whether taxpayers’ money was used to fund the fake Facebook accounts.

Karapatan said the substantial amount reported by Facebook is wasted on the Duterte government’s efforts to spread disinformation as well as undermine and vilify dissent.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and instead, the investigation conducted by Facebook highly suggests that the government is spending our taxes to weaponize social media to spread lies online and to attack its critics — and the actual amount of money they have spent and pocketed can be much, much higher,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte lies on razor blade killing, NPA in Negros says

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Island denied President Rodrigo Duterte’s accusation it killed a soldier using a disposable razor blade, in turn accusing government troops as “consistent violators” of the rules of war.

“It is not true. The four police officers were fired upon by the NPA and were never tortured,” Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA, told Kodao.

Magbanua was referring to the March 3 ambush of four police officers by the NPA at the boundary of Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental and Isabela town in Negros Occidental that injured four soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB) of the Philippine Army.

But Duterte may have been referring to the killing of a paramilitary trooper and two “military informants” last June 13 in Himamaylan City by a partisan unit of the NPA as punishment for their alleged participation in the implementation of the government’s brutal Oplan Sauron counter-insurgency campaign in the island.

The families of those killed said they were killed with guns.

“That razor incident at hostage-taking never happened,” Magbanua added.

Duterte in his recent report on the government’s coronavirus response Monday night again spent a substantial part of his recorded address verbally attacking the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines, accusing them of being the country’s biggest terrorist threat.

The president said the NPA had been attacking police officers escorting relief operations by the government.

“Pati nga ‘yung pulis na kasama ng gubyerno na tutulong sa mga tao, pinatay niyo lahat. Tapos, using a Gillette blade (hand moving across throat). Kaya ako galit sa inyo,” Duterte said.

He added that he had no history of maltreating captured NPA fighters in Mindanao.

“There was never a time that we handled an NPA prisoner sa Mindanao na sinaktan namin. We don’t even allow the mosquitoes to bite them. May warning kami sa mga alimatok pati sa mga…ano ba ng alimatok sa Tagalog? Linta. Leech. Na huwag galawin ang mga NPA na bihag dahil baka tayo ang pagbintangan,” he said.

Magbanua however said it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that consistently violates International Humanitarian Law through strafing of civilian homes, red-tagging of activists, and physical and mental abuse of detainees.

Marco Valbuena, information officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines, also said that Duterte is, in fact, the country’s biggest terrorist, using the AFP and the entire State machinery to unleash “wanton terror” in his government’s drug war, massacres, extrajudicial killings, the bombardment of communities in his nearly four years in power. # (Raymund B. Villanueva) 

Red-tagged teacher receives international award

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) secretary general Raymond Basilio is this year’s National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) International Solidarity Award “for bravery and commitment in promoting human and trade union rights.”

In an letter, NASUWT, the teachers union of the United Kingdom (UK), also cited Basilio for his advocacy for quality education for all and for defending [the] status of teachers.

“The NASUWT International Solidarity Award honors those who uphold our shared, universal trade union values of solidarity, equality and democracy,” the announcement reads.

ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio. (Supplied photo)

“We recognize that you have been a vocal advocate of the right of all children to quality education and of the rights of teachers,” it adds.

Basilio had been the victim of vicious red-tagging by the Philippine military, prompting him to refrain from going home to his family for long stretches.

“[W]e wish…to express our deep concern and dismay at the continuing state-sponsored threats and harassment that you and your (ACT) members have been subjected to, including profiling, red-tagging, vilification, harassment, intimidation and threats,” NASUWT said.

NASUWT said that along with Amnesty International, Education International and the International Trade Union Confederation it will press the Philippine government to allow Basilio to carry out his legitimate trade union activities without fear of harassment or imprisonment.

“The NASUWT wants you, and the teachers in the Philippines, to be assured of our continued support and solidarity,” the union told Basilio.

The union said it hopes the award will help maintain a spotlight on the actions of the Philippine government and provide Basilio with reassurance that NASUWT and the wide international community, continue to support him fully and ACT as champions of the rights of teachers and students.

Previous recipients of the prize since 2013 include teachers rights champions from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, South Korea, Turkey, Iran and Argentina.

The NASUWT announcement said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, it regrets that Basilio would not be able to receive the prize in the UK in person. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP orders NPA to shift to ‘offensive posture’ after ceasefire order ends

There is no more ceasefire in effect in the country after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced it has decided against re-extending its truce order that expired midnight Thursday.

“The refusal of the Duterte regime to relent in its attacks against the NPA (New People’s Army), despite calls for a ‘global ceasefire’ has made the further extension of the NPA ceasefire impossible,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP’s 36-day ceasefire was first declared last March 24 and was extended when it ended last April 15. The government’s first and only ceasefire declaration under the ongoing coronavirus pandemic started last March 19 and ended on April 15.

In a recorded address aired last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will never be ready for any round of peace talks with the CPP, accusing the NPA of attacking soldiers in Ma. Aurora Town in Aurora Province who were escorting a relief operation connected with the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown.

The CPP however denied the allegation, saying the AFP was in fact conducting a counter-insurgency operation, as it did throughout the ceasefire periods.

“Since Duterte called for a ceasefire on March 16, AFP counterinsurgency operations remain unabated, deploying its units in at least 396 villages in 148 towns, ceaselessly conducting combat operations, aerial bombardments and artillery shelling, aerial surveillance and ground intelligence operations, arresting civilians, and violating people’s rights with impunity,” the CPP said.

The CPP said that in more than a month since both parties declared their unilateral ceasefire orders, the AFP mounted at least 36 raids against NPA encampments in 23 provinces that resulted in at least 11 armed encounters.

The group claimed the AFP suffered at least 56 casualties, 31 of whom were killed in action.

On the part of the NPA, 18 Red fighters were killed while eight were wounded, the CPP reported.

The military operations happened in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Antique, Bohol, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Iloilo, Lanao del Sur, Masbate, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Quezon, Rizal, Samar, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, the group added.

The CPP commended its armed wing for “successfully defending themselves and the masses and thwarting the raids and treacherous attacks mounted by the AFP in their relentless counterinsurgency operations.”

Starting today, Friday, May 1, the CPP has ordered the NPA to shift from “active defense” to an “offensive posture” in anticipation of more attacks against its forces.

‘Offensive posture’

In shifting to an offensive posture, the CPP urged the NPA to be always ready to strike against the AFP, Philippine National Police and the paramilitary forces under the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit as well as other armed groups of the government.

“The NPA must mount tactical offensives especially against the most notorious human rights violators and those who have subjected people to abuse. The NPA must target the isolated and weak units and detachments of the AFP and its armed auxiliaries,” the CPP ordered.

While getting ready to meet the AFP’s counter-insurgency operations, the CPP also urged the NPA to continue its anti-COVID health services and information drives in various communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Cover up for failure to stop COVID spread, CPP says of Duterte’s threat to impose martial law

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) described as squid tactics Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirades against the revolutionary movement and called the President’s renewed threats to impose martial law a mere cover up of his government’s failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

After an invective-peppered rant against the New People’s Army (NPA) Friday morning, April 24, the CPP said Duterte’s latest threat to impose military rule on the country is a classic deflection tactic to draw away the people’s attention from the government’s “inept, uncompassionate and irresponsible actions in the face of the pandemic.”

“Duterte is using the Covid-19 crisis, one that has blown up because of his government’s military-minded response and failure to conduct mass testing, to carry out agenda of imposing martial law. Duterte’s ultimate aim is to establish his dictatorship, something he has long sought to do,” the CPP said in a statement.

Duterte again riled at the NPA in his televised address accusing the guerrillas of killing two government soldiers he claimed were escorting relief workers delivering aid to communities in Aurora Province last Tueday, April 21.

“If you persist in your lawlessness—and it is happening all over the Philippines—maybe I will declare martial law,” Duterte said.

The Philippine Army (PA) identified Pfc. Ken Lester I. Sasapan and Pfc. Jackson M. Mallari as those killed in a clash with the NPA Barangay Diaat, Maria Aurora town.

The Philippine Army however said the 91st Infantry Battalion of 7th Infantry Division was “conducting a security patrol in the vicinity in relation to the distribution of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Special Amelioration Program.”

CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said the government troops attacked the local NPA unit who merely defended themselves.

“Sugod kasi ng sugod ang AFP. Utos ni Duterte eh. Pinambabala sa kanyon ang mga sundalo niya. Siyempre, NPA is alert and ready to defend themselves,” Valbuena said. (They keep on attacking. It was Duterte’s order. He treats his soldiers as cannon fodder. Of course, the NPA is alert and ready to defend themselves.)

The CPP said the armed clashes between the NPA and the AFP in the past days are a result of the attacks of the AFP and active defense of the NPA.

Since Duterte’s ceasefire lapsed last April 15, the AFP has further stepped up its counterinsurgency operations, the group said.

“In fact, the AFP never went on ceasefire, even when Duterte ordered a suspension of offensive operations last March 19 to April 15, deploying troops to more than 350 barangays and 120 towns to conduct counterinsurgency, mounting at least 24 offensives and six aerial bombardments,” the CPP said.

The CPP pointed out that a separated clash in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental last April 15 that killed three AFP soldiers happened in the interior areas 10 kilometers away from Barangay Carabalan, where the DSWD was scheduled to distribute “social amelioration” to the residents.

“The 94th IB platoon was clearly on combat operations when they carried out the attack against the NPA. The NPA fighters rightfully defended themselves in battle,” the CPP said.

The CPP in turn accused the AFP of conducting “pang-press release” (for press release purposes) relief work that serve as cover for its intensified counterinsurgency operations against the NPA.

“The AFP has stepped up its counterinsurgency drive to prevent the NPA from conducting its own public health campaign in response to the Covid-19 and economic and production work to help the people cope with the sharp economic downturn,” the CPP said.

The group added that should Duterte impose martial law, the move will not stop the Covid-19 pandemic but will only cause greater hardships on the people.

“The Party condemns Duterte’s further extension of the lockdown in lieu of any decisive push for mass testing. The lockdown is now deceptively referred to as ‘general’ or ‘modified’ quarantine has been expanded to cover large parts of Visayas and Mindanao. There is now creeping nationwide martial law and the entire country is now effectively under the highhanded and control of the military and police,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Our basic rights are not on lockdown amid this pandemic’

On the killing of retired Corporal Winston Ragos:

“Our basic rights are not on lockdown amid this pandemic — and to effectively combat this pandemic, the government needs to implement the needed public health measures, to address the people’s legitimate demands especially the poor and marginalized, and to uphold people’s rights, welfare, and dignity. We demand justice, and we will hold the government accountable.”

Cristina Palabay
Secretary-General, KARAPATAN

Jo Maline Mamangun

‘We underwent through a proper process’

On the arrest of former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Sagip Kanayunan volunteers:

This illegal and immoral arrest could be one of the major blunders of the Duterte government’s continued effort to red-tag progressives, reaching to the point where one agency refuses to recognize the authority of another agency to issue food passes. Contrary to the statement of Usec. Malaya, we underwent through a proper process in applying for the food pass, so that our delivery of relief packs to the distressed fishing and farming communities will not be hampered.

Fernando Hicap

Chairperson, PAMALAKAYA

Former Anakpawis Party Representative

Carlo Francisco

Church group calls on gov’t to reciprocate CPP’s truce extension

A church-based group asked the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to heed the Easter call of Pope Francis for “an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world” by reciprocating the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) extension of its truce order.

In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) also called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to open the doors to resume the stalled peace talks “especially in the face of an uncertain future brought about by this Covid-19 pandemic.”

The PEPP said that despite accusations from both side that each has violated their respective unilateral ceasefire declarations that simultaneously expired last before midnight of Wednesday, April 15, it still believes that the ceasefires may lead to “healing” and can only provide a good environment for the unhampered flow of services to the Filipino people during the lockdown.

A reciprocal declaration of truce orders may also pave the way for both side to again engage in “principled dialogue toward lasting peace,” it added.

The PEPP statement, signed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Anglican Bishop Rex Reyes, was issued after the CPP announced its order to extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30.

The PEPP also volunteered to provide custodial guarantee to vulnerable and elderly prisoners, such as several NDFP consultants, it said should be released on humanitarian grounds as reports of contagion and deaths of detainees have hit various prisons.

“PEPP stands by our longstanding offer to enable and facilitate a conducive atmosphere for restarting the peace talks by providing custodial guarantee through the church network of PEPP should the process of Release on Recognizance be followed in relation to the detained consultants of the NDFP,” it said.

“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to put a heavy premium on peace and the release on humanitarian grounds the vulnerable during this time of crisis. Today, more than ever—as our nation and the whole world prays for healing—is the time to ‘seek peace and pursue it,” PEPP said, quoting the Bible.

AFP offensives continue

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however said military offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) have resumed as of April 16.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told reporters last Friday, April 17, the military offensives shall continue even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Malacañan Palace’s has yet to react to efforts by Kodao to seek its comment on the CPP’s truce order extension.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison on the hand said he highly appreciates PEPP’s appeal to Duterte to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP to the NPA, to release the political prisoners on recognizance to the church leaders, and to pave the way for the resumption of peace negotiations.

“I hope that Duterte heeds the appeal of the PEPP. The war hawks of the Duterte regime and the military violate Duterte’s own avowal for healing,” Sison said.

He added that the AFP has only shown “their hatred for the people by denying the violations of their own ceasefire and by launching more offensives against the NPA and the people at the time of the Covid-19 contagion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP extends truce order despite complaints of GRP ceasefire violations

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month to concentrate on its efforts to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, April 16, the CPP said its Central Committee has ordered the extension for 15 more days starting April 15 “prioritize the fight against the pandemic and ensure the safety, health and well-being of everyone.”

The extended ceasefire order is effective until 11:59 p.m. of April 30

“The CPP ordered the units of the NPA (New People’s Army) and the people’s militias to continue to desist and cease from carrying out offensive military actions against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” its information office said in a statement.

The group said the aim of the ceasefire extension is to ensure quick and unimpeded support to all people requiring urgent medical, health and socioeconomic assistance in the face of the public emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Party said all its revolutionary forces are ever ready to cooperate with all other forces and elements to achieve this objective.

Meanwhile, the CPP leadership commended all units of the NPA and people’s militias for their discipline in observing the ceasefire order and shifting priority to the anti-Covid-19 campaign.

It said that the Party’s ceasefire order has been observed “despite the difficulties and dangers brought about by the continuing occupation of AFP combat troops of guerrilla zones and base areas, the widespread and intense intelligence and psywar (psychological warfare) operations, and the attacks mounted by the AFP’s strike forces against detected NPA units.”

The CPP Central Committee reminded all NPA units to “maintain strictest secrecy” and not allow themselves to be exposed to AFP attacks.

The recent armed encounters which the AFP misreport as NPA ceasefire violations are all a result of the offensive actions of the AFP, it alleged.

The ceasefire extension order came after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres complaining of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15.

The AFP conducted military operations in 196 villages and 96 towns throughout the Philippines, the NDFP said quoting CPP reports.

In its statement, the CPP also reiterated the call for the “urgent release” and for declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

It also expressed desire for the resumption of the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations.

“During the ceasefire period, all NPA units must strictly limit themselves to active defense operations which shall be carried out only in the face of imminent danger and actual armed attacks by the enemy forces,” the CPP reiterated.

The GRP has yet to comment on whether it would extend its own ceasefire declaration which has expired before midnight Wednesday, April 15. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds report to UN on GRP truce violations

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has reported to the United Nations (UN) the Philippine government’s alleged violations to its unilateral ceasefire declaration committed while much of the country is under a coronavirus lockdown.

As the Duterte government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) respective unilateral ceasefire declarations expired Wednesday night, April 15, the NDFP said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the government’s violations are in defiance of the global body’s request for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic.

NDFP Executive Committee and National Council member Luis Jalandoni told Guterres in a letter that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have mounted 13 attacks or assaults against the New People’s Army (NPA) and conducted at least five aerial bombardments and artillery shelling throughout the country between March 19 to April 15.

The attacks happened in 196 villages in 96 towns nationwide, he said.

Jalandoni’s letter quoted a report from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau, alleging that the Duterte government conducted so-called security patrols that targeted “resting units of the NPA in their areas.”

“Despite claims by the AFP of NPA violations of its ceasefire, it is clear from all reports of the AFP that it was their combat units which were on attack mode,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said in his report.

The AFP also conducted at least five aerial bombing and artillery shelling operations on March 17, March 24 and March 27-29 in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon provinces, all in the southern island of Mindanao, Valbuena added.

“Purportedly conducting Covid-19 related activities, GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) armed troops roam around civilian communities, set up checkpoints, prohibit people from buying food and other necessities, prevent peasants from tending to their crops, enter people’s homes, accuse them of being armed fighters or NPA supporters, and compel them to ‘surrender’ lest they remain in the military’s ‘list,’” Valbuena reported.

There are several incidents of arrests of peasants, including the detention of 11 indigenous farmers in Pantukan town (Davao de Oro province in Mindanao), as well as the arrest of a 71-year old peasant leader Proceso Torralba in Butuan City, accused of being an NPA member, he added.

Jalandoni’s letter to Guterres was dated April 13 and was also furnished to UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

‘NPA compliant with UN’

In his letter, Jalandoni also said that the NPA has complied fully with the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP in response to the humanitarian appeal of Guterres for parties involved in armed conflicts to declare a global ceasefire in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

The health committees and the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army, the CPP and the entire NDFP continue to carry out programs in all 73 provinces where the NDFP forces operate, Jalandoni said. 

“The NPA refrains from undertaking attacks against the GRP’s armed forces. The NPA is observing an active defense policy to protect the community from the serious violations of the GRP’s armed forces,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP National Council has deeply valued the UN’s appreciation of the unilateral ceasefire issued by the CPP on March 24 in response to Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire among warring parties to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP is committed to continuing its programs throughout the country to protect the people against the pandemic as well as the Philippine government’s violations of its unilateral ceasefire in defense of the Filipino people’s fundamental human rights.

He said the NDFP National Council, the CPP and the NPA shall decide on whether to issue another truce order as both the CPP and the GRP’s respective ceasefire declarations simultaneously ended before midnight Thursday, April 16. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)