Partisan? Cayetano vows House probe vs Facebook after Palace cries 'censorship'

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 29 2020 09:03 PM

MANILA — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday urged Facebook to "introspect" and "reflect on the soundness of its actions" after the Philippine government tagged as "censorship" its move to take down propaganda networks allegeldy linked to the Philippine military.

"[W]e note with grave concern the recent reports that Facebook is being partisan by allegedly deactivating verified accounts of Filipinos who have voiced their support for our soldiers and police officers, as well as their respective organizations and advocacies,” Cayetano said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

To "determine if the reported actions of Facebook are detrimental to the Constitutional freedom of expression," Cayetano said the House of Representatives will initiate "appropriate proceedings in aid of legislation" once it has finished dealing with the proposed 2021 national budget.

On Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte questioned Facebook’s decision to delete pages and personal accounts that have been vocal against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

The military said Hands Off Our Children, a platform on Facebook for parents whose children were allegedly recruited by the NPA, as well as the accounts of some people associated with it were among those deleted by Facebook. An Army officer served as administrator of the HOOC page on Facebook.

"Favoring one sector or ideology - especially one that has been tagged by the international community as a terrorist organization - directly contradicts Facebook’s core purpose of connecting all people globally in a free, open, and neutral marketplace of ideas," Cayetano said.

He recalled Duterte's issuance of a proclamation in December 2017 declaring the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations, following similar designations by the United States and the European Union.

Cayetano said while the government "always welcomes" dissent and protest, "we should and will never tolerate violence and terrorism."

"We call on Facebook Philippines to take this time to introspect and reflect on the soundness of its actions that tend to undermine the democratic principles upon which its phenomenal success is based," he said.

Duterte invited Facebook for a talk over the social media giant's removal of pages, accounts, groups, and Instagram profiles that were allegedly targeting the Philippines for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or manipulation campaigns on the platform.

Calling the removed accounts as part of the government's "advocacies," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the takedown of the pages can be considered a form of censorship given that Facebook did not classify these as "fake news."

A recent Social Weather Stations’ survey showed that nearly all or 98 percent of Filipino internet users have Facebook accounts— or around 29.4 million individuals.