'Regulate social media firms, not users': AFP chief clarifies earlier proposal on anti-terror law implementation

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2020 02:08 PM

AFP chief of staff Gilbert Gapay answers questions from members of the Commission on Appointments on September 2, 2020. Alexis Nueva España, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay on Wednesday clarified his earlier pronouncement that the military should "regulate" social media, saying his proposal covers online companies, and "not users" of any platform.

Social media companies need to regulate the kind of content that can be uploaded on their platforms because terrorists have been using the internet and technology to recruit more members and financiers, Gapay told the Commission on Appointments.

"The AFP has absolutely no intention to curtail freedom of expression on social media when I gave that statement," he said.

"This regulation is not tantamount to curtailment of people's freedom... The goal of this regulation is to make social media platforms, service providers more liable for the content they host," he said.

As an example, Gapay cited how the Maute brothers allegedly used social media to recruit fighters and solicit more funds for the months-long siege in Marawi City in 2017.

"We regulate the social media platform service providers, not the users," he said.

"Perhaps they can regulate what is being uploaded in their social media platforms," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told Gapay that the government cannot impose prior restraint on any individual or group.

"These are private platforms... There should be no attempt on part of government to impose prior restraint on these media outlets," Drilon said.

"We should not anticipate what these media platforms will do. But once they cross the line, we will hold them responsible," he said.

Acts of recruiting members, soliciting funds for terror activities, and conspiring with terrorists are all punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Law, said Drilon as he thumbed down proposals to regulate online channels.

"The remedy is to file charges against them," said the former Justice secretary.

Gapay noted that other countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Singapore have already taken measures to police terroristic activities on social media. 

But the military chief assured lawmakers that the armed forces will not go beyond what is written in the anti-terror law when they implement it.

The Commission on Appointments approved the nomination of Gapay to the rank of General.