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Online tutorial on making molotovs? Military official justifies need to 'regulate' social media

Commission on Appointments hearing: Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) Chief Major General Antonio Parlade Jr., appears before the hybrid deliberation of the Committee on National Defense of the Commission on Appointments on August 24, 2020. Henzberg Austria, Senate PRIB

MANILA - A military official on Monday sough to justify the government's need to "regulate" social media, claiming terrorist groups have allegedly been holding online tutorials on how to make molotov bombs.

While social media was allegedly used initially as a recruitment platform for terrorist organizations, it has purportedly become a channel on bomb making, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. told the Commission on Appointments when asked if he backed the position of AFP Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay on social media "regulation."

"If we see people talking about how to assemble bombs, there has to be a regulation on how the security sector would be able to monitor what they are doing," Parlade said, noting that "legal organizations" have been "talking about how to make molotov bombs."

"We should not suppress freedom of expression, but we have to do something about people who are irresponsible in using social media," he said.

The military needs to counter the "propaganda of the enemy" instead of focusing most of its assets on tactical operations, Parlade said.

"We want to shift to the more important aspect of this political war
which is propaganda," he said.

"Your AFP today is more professional. We understand the dynamics... If they happen to be part of that [propaganda] machinery, then we will destroy it," he said.

Gapay earlier said that the military would be "providing some inputs on countering violent extremism" to the panel that would draft the implementing rules and regulations of the Anti-Terror Law.

Among the recommendations would be "regulating social media because this is the platform now being used by the terrorists to radicalize, to recruit and even plan terrorist acts," he said in a press conference immediately after assuming the military's top post.

"Prior restraint" to the right of the people to express their thoughts in public platforms, like social media, is unlawful, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told Parlade.

"You cannot determine what they are allowed to do," Drilon said.

"The regulation will determine what they are allowed to do. And when you regulate what is allowed, that is prior restraint and in the Constitution, that is not allowed," he said.

Gapay "should have qualified" his earlier statement, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the chief proponent of the Anti-Terror Law in the Senate.

"When you issue statements, be very careful and be very conscious," Lacson told 15 high-ranking Armed Forces officials during their confirmation hearing.

"That is not the legislative intent of the Anti-Terror Law when we deliberated it on the floor and passed it. Kindly relay that piece of advice to your Chief of Staff," he said.

Parlade said that while he supports Gapay's statement, he would "submit to the wisdom of the senators" as it was the legislative that crafted the Anti-Terror Law.

Malacañang earlier denied that the Anti-Terror Law, meant to strengthen the country's fight against terrorism, covers the social media.

"Binasa ko naman po ang Anti-Terror Law, wala pong probisyon doon na magagamit laban sa social media," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a lawyer, said during a Palace press briefing earlier this month.

(I read the Anti-Terror Law, there is no provision there on social media)

Several petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law have been filed before the Supreme Court as activists, educators, journalists and other parties warned that the policy may be used to suppress government critics and dissenters.

The high court has yet to issue a ruling.