MANILA (UPDATE) - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday ordered an investigation on those involved in the editing of a handout photo from the Philippine Army that showed former rebels surrendering to the government.
Lorenzana said sanctions will be imposed against uniformed personnel who took part in editing images of former rebels and old firearms to make it appear that these were the individuals who recently surrendered to authorities.
"I have directed the CG (Commanding General) Army to make an inquiry. Sanctions will be meted to those who perpetrated it," the defense chief said in a statement.
"This is very serious because it undermines the efforts of the whole Organization," he said, noting that the Armed Forces recently received an "unprecedented high trust rating" from the public.
The Army's 9th Infantry Division earlier apologized for the incident, saying they only wanted to keep safe the identities of those who surrendered.
The unit was "not able to double check the pictures attached to the press release" because of their "ardent desire to release timely information," Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said in a separate statement.
"Their admission to the mistake is proof of their commitment to the high standards of public affairs principles," he said, noting that responsible officials will still be held accountable.
Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the Armed Forces, said AFP chief Gen. Noel Clement "has ordered the conduct of a thorough investigation surrounding the incident."
"It is a well-settled policy in the AFP that press releases be appropriately reviewed and validated," Arevalo said in a statement.
"And if photos on file are to be used, it must be labelled accordingly as such."
Those found culpable will be punished, the statement added.
The processed photo drew flak online, with some calling it a fake surrender.
Government has been working to bring back to its fold communist rebels in the countryside while its talks with communist leaders remain stalled.