MANILA (4th UPDATE) - Suspicious social media accounts bearing names of students from several universities and alumni were reported Sunday following protests against the anti-terror bill.
Students from the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines have reported blank and duplicate accounts, according to authorities and university publications.
UP said its System Data Protection Officer has reached out to the National Privacy Commission to help victims report fake accounts to Facebook.
It also urged students and alumni to report fake accounts to Facebook's Data Protection Office.
The suspected fake social media accounts were first reported in UP Cebu, where 7 protesters and a bystander were arrested last Friday, according to the UP Office of the Student Regent.
It urged students "not to panic and instead help each other in reporting suspicious accounts only."
"We are hoping that this is a glitch in the system only and can be resolved as soon as possible. However, let it be clear that we will not tolerate any misleading content posted on any account that will endanger our students," it said.
The Department of Justice has ordered its cybercrime office to coordinate with the police and National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the matter.
"This gives me cause for worry. We don't need false information at a time when we're dealing with a serious public health crisis," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
GOVERNMENT CRITICS TARGETED?
Those who are "critical of the government are the usual targets," the UP College of Mass Communication said.
"Anne," a student in a university in Iloilo, also noticed the same pattern among those who found dummy accounts in their names.
"The common thing that we noticed is that yung mga ginagawan ng dummy accounts, yung mga taong vocal about their opinions sa government," Anne said.
"At first, we thought they were only targeting students na nag-participate sa protest or sa rally recently. But later. may mga tweets din na nagsilabasan na ginawan din sila ng dummy accounts and medyo marami... There were 3 or 2 accounts na may iba't ibang combinations of their names."
Aside from students and alumni, fake accounts of faculty members also surfaced. All have no photos and posts.
“We think they got our names from the online petition that we signed or our posts about the anti-terror bill,” one UP Cebu student said.
Authorities arrested the so-called "Cebu 8" during Friday's rally against the controversial measure in front of the UP Cebu campus, citing alleged violation of general community quarantine guidelines.
On Saturday, police filed criminal charges against them for unlawful assembly, disobedience and violating the law on mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern.
“Our legal team is still evaluating what counter charges to file. But definitely we are working on that. As of now, we are focusing on how we can post bail,” said King Perez, one of the members of the legal team for the Cebu 8. -- With reports from Annie Perez, Cherry Palma, and Mike Navallo ABS-CBN News