CHR urges PNP to enforce social media regulations amid 'baseless accusations' against activists

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
CHR urges PNP to enforce social media regulations amid 'baseless accusations' against activists
In this March 16, 2018 photo, militant group Anakpawis holds a protest in front of the Department of Justice.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights urged the Philippine National Police to enforce its own social media regulations Monday. 

This was in response to an edited photograph posted by CARAGA police depicting Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, with devil horns. 

In the past few days, the national police's own channels have posted content vilifying and red-tagging activists, accusing them of being fronts for communist rebels. 

READ: PNP 'art' tags activists as terrorists amid debate on anti-terrorism bill

"The Commission on Human Rights welcomes the reminder of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa to his fellow police officers to strictly observe their social media protocols, as defiance to this would be meted out with administrative and even criminal charges," the commission's statement read.

"Duty bearers like members of the law enforcement are bound by high standards of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their mandate. Similarly, official communication platforms such as social media accounts must be utilized primarily as tools for disseminating accurate and reliable information to the public, particularly at this moment that our country is still battling with Covid-19," it added. 

This also comes as users on social media, most of them activists, began reporting an influx of blank, duplicate accounts bearing their names. Some users said they were messaged death threats by their "clones." 

READ: Facebook duplicates 'may be used to perpetuate misinformation' — PNP

Despite having accounts that red-tagged activists, even the national police has also acknowledged that the cloned accounts could be used to peddle misinformation. 

A post by the Philippine National Police publicly accuses a youth group of being communist rebels with a "boss" in the Netherlands. The faces of some activists are included in the images.
Philstar.com screengrab

On Tuesday, a youth group decried what it said was an online smear campaign by Cordillera police that they had been enduring for months. 

One post by the Police Regional Office Cordillera page read: in Filipino: "Do not participate in left-leaning ONLINE ORIENTATION activities. It is a way of deceiving people, especially young people."'

The group's letter, addressed to Facebook, asked the social media company to take action against the posts. 

READ: Cordillera youth group urges Facebook action on 'smear campaign' vs activists

At a press briefing Monday, Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, who sits as chief of the PNP, said that violations of the national police's social media protocols could warrant criminal and administrative raps for erring cops. 

"In the sea of disinformation online, social media content of government offices must only forward genuine public interest and must never be used to malign any individual or cause any harm to anyone with baseless accusations," CHR said. 

"We echo the call of the PNP chief and hope that such actions that might compromise the rights of a person would be avoided in the future with the agency’s commitment to strictly enforce its existing protocols."

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