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PNP chief: We do not authorize red-tagging

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP chief: We do not authorize red-tagging
Post by the Butuan Cps III page with the mark of the national police shows party-list solons with devil horns. The post was published just a day after Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, warned against unscrupulous social media usage on the part of the police.
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MANILA, Philippines — Despite its own social media channels regularly churning out content accusing activists and government critics of being communist rebels, the chief of the national police said Monday that the agency does not authorize the practice. 

Speaking at his weekly press briefing, Police Gen. Camilo Cascolan, PNP chief, said that cops were free to post what they want on their personal channels, but not those representing the Philippine National Police as an institution. 

"We do not authorize that (red-tagging). If they want to do that, they can do it on their own, but they should not use the official PNP websites. We're law enforcers, as much as possible, we don't give up any arguments in the public," Cascolan said. 

READ: Dura 'Likes': PNP social media rules and what police actually post

This comes as the latest development after social networking site Facebook announced that it busted a network of accounts exhibiting “coordinated inauthentic behavior” which it linked to the Philippine police and military. 

Over the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine National Police has consistently posted content vilifying and red-tagging activists, government critics and even registered party-list lawmakers on its official social media accounts, none of which has been acknowledged by police leadership. 

At his press briefing, Cascolan disclosed that the PNP reached out to the social networking giant seeking a list of purported PNP-linked accounts that were shut down. The agency later received a response from Rob Abrams, Trust and Safety Manager for Asia Pacific of Facebook Singapore, who "implied assurance of availability of the requested information upon compliance of certain internal requisites."

The police chief also vowed: "Disciplinary sanctions shall be imposed upon any PNP member who wilfully violate the rules and regulations embodied in the PNP Social Media Policy." He pointed to Memorandum Circular No. 2020-034 which prescribes guidelines on social media content and usage from PNP personnel. 

The guidelines in the rule urge social media handlers in the agency to:

  1. Ensure that all posts are not libelous, do not trigger cyber-bullying, and do not violate the Data Privacy Act and Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines. 
  2. Ensure that all posts shall not disclose confidential information detrimental to the safety of any individual. 
  3. Ensure that all posts shall not be inimical to the interest of the organization and to the (sic.) national security. 

"Any PNP personnel who violates any of the General Guidelines of this MC shall be charged with Less Grave Neglect of Duty. However, if the act also constitutes a violation of law, he/she shall be charged for such act," the document later reads.  

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

Former police chief Archie Gamboa made a similar warning at the height of the posts during the community quarantine, though this did little to stem the steady stream of content from its pages.

Immediately after the announcement by Facebook, the PNP "disowned" the "unofficial and unauthorized opinion" by the social media platform and asserted that all of its official channels "remain compliant with standards." 

"As far the PNP is concerned, all 1,585 social media pages and networking sites (as of October 4, 2020) officially owned and maintained by PNP units and offices remain up and operational, although many of which are not actively engaging with netizens," Cascolan also said at the press conference. 

"All these sites are monitored by the National Headquarters and PNP units maintaining these social networking sites are constantly reminded to strictly observe PNP Rules on social media use, and cautioned against libelous posts and content that may trigger cyber-bullying, and those that infringe on civil rights that protect data privacy," he added. 

The Commission on Human Rights had issued a warning against the practice of red-tagging, which it said "violates the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and may have serious implications on the security and movement of individuals and groups involved."

A report by the United Nations in June has also said that the narrative that critics of the government are linked to communist rebels has become “increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse."

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