Intelligence chief stands by Facebook posts calling Makabayan reps terrorists

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Intelligence chief stands by Facebook posts calling Makabayan reps terrorists
This June 30, 2016 photo shows NICA Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo.
The STAR, file photo

MANILA, Philippines — The head of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency on Sunday disputed allegations that he is sharing false information on social media by posting unproven allegations that opposition lawmakers are members of the communist armed movement.

NICA Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo said Sunday that he "categorically denies" the claims by Reps. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) and Sarah Elago (Kabataan party-list) during the agency's budget hearing on September 29 that he is spreading false information.

"The reason why I share posts in my Facebook personal account is no different from all account holders," he said. "It is because I find the post inspiring or entertaining or informative."

In October 2016, Sen. Richard Gordon scolded NICA for sending a "faulty" intelligence report to the blue ribbon committee. According to a Rappler report, NICA said China has a missile silo under the mountains of Zambales, information that came from a site on blogging platform blogspot.

"When we researched the website, this is what it contains, this specific article which was submitted to us, it's partly for satirical and entertainment purposes," Gordon said then.

Monteagudo, in his statement on Sunday, did not present any evidence for the claim except a rehash of old allegations that the Makabayan lawmakers are members of the CPP-NPA, recognized as a terrorist group in several countries. 

Budget deliberations for President Rodrigo Duterte's communications office had previosuly been stalled over Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy's posts naming lawmakers as part of the CPP-NPA.

"It is no wonder that this Makabayan bloc are undermining the NTF-ELCAC by blocking the budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the National Security Council and the NICA," he added. 


Members of the bloc have cried foul against government officials and agencies resorting to "red-tagging," even using official social media accounts for the said efforts and exposing them to attacks and threats on the internet. 

Government critics and activists have long been exposed to the said dangers, with some of them ending up murdered such as peace consultant Randall Echanis and human rights worker Zara Alvarez over the past months. 

"We will not be intimidated by Congressman Zarate and the rest of the Makabayan bloc representatives from exposing their true color as proxies of the communist terrorist group," Monteagudo added. 

Government officials regularly equate dissent and opposition to its policies as being in league with or as being communist rebels. In June, the UN Human Rights Office said in a report on the Philippines that this practice has become "increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse."

“People who disagree with government policies and criticize them including in international fora, should not be vilified as terrorist sympathizers,” UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said then.

READ: Labeling dissent as rebellion 'institutionalized, normalized' in Philippines — UN report

The issue of spreading fake news targeted at critics has escalated over recent days after Facebook announced that it removed networks of fake accounts and pages for "coordinated inauthentic behavior". One of the networks was based in China while the other had links to the Philippine military and police. 

President Rodrigo Duterte in his weekly address last Monday threatened to block Facebook's operations in the country after the social media giant's move. 

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, Duterte's former police chief and current ally in the Senate, is also seeking a congressional inquiry on Facebook's shutting down of pro-government pages.

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