THE Philippine Army yesterday said an account being managed by one of its officers was among those taken down by Facebook Inc. recently for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Army spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala said the personal FB account of Capt. Alexandre Cabales, of the Army’s Civil Military Operations Regiment (CMOR), was also taken down by FB authorities.
Zagala said Cabales is the administrator of the closed FB page of “Hands Off Our Children (HOOC)” which is composed of parents whose children were recruited by the communist New People’s Army.
“He was asked (to be the administrator), he agreed… He was asked by the convenors of the Hands Off Our Children and he became their (FB account) administrator,” said Zagala.
Zagala said Cabales accepted the invitation as part of his personal advocacy against the communist rebels.
Cabales is a member of the Philippine Military Academy 2008 and served as spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao de Oro before becoming the head of the Social Media Center of the CMOR.
Zagala said Cabales is also managing the Army’s FB account, Kalinaw News, which is still up and running. Kalinaw News, which is about military issues, also has a website (www.kalinawnews.com).
“He handles our social media training and social media platform, the Kalinaw News… His job is inform, through Kalinaw News, give accurate information. He also trains other CMO units of the Philippine Army on how to set up their Facebook or whatever social media accounts as a platform, as a tool of civil military operation,” said Zagala.
Zagala confirmed information first reported by US-based Digital Forensic Research Lab that first identified Cabales to be among the operators of the FB-banned accounts linked to the Philippine military and police.
Zagala said the Army is vouching for Cabales’ integrity. “We are alarmed and we’re concerned, especially one of our officers was named, an officer that we hold in high esteem,” he said.
Nevertheless, Zagala said the Army is going to inquire about the coordinated inauthentic behavior” that FB is claiming to have been committed by the accounts it has taken down.
Zagala said there was nothing wrong with Cabales working in a personal capacity as the administrator of the FB page of HOOC, noting the group’s members “are looking for their children who were recruited by the New People’s Army.”
“Part of the thrust of the Philippine Army is to stop recruitment so that there will be no more insurgency,” said Zagala.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay urged FB officials, during a virtual meeting on Wednesday afternoon, to restore the account of HOOC and other pages that are against child exploitation and terrorism.
“Specifically, our AFP chief of staff, inquired with FB if they can restore Hands Off Our Children in their platform, and not only Hands Off Our Children but other groups whose advocacies run through the area of preventing child exploitation and trafficking of minors and combating terrorism that FB might have taken down,” said AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo.
In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Arevalo said the military and FB officials were not able to get into the details of the removed accounts due to technical difficulties.
He also said none of the official accounts of the military has been taken down.
Gapay defended the HOOC, saying the grievances of a group of parents “who are fighting to protect their children against violent extremism” are “legitimate.”
“Their Facebook page was instrumental to their campaign to raise awareness on the vulnerability of children at the hands of communist front organizations. Its arbitrary shutdown adds to the limited spaces afforded to them and the unsympathetic ears of some sectors,” said Gapay.
The Privacy Commission said it will conduct a deeper investigation and asked Facebook officials to appear before it.
“We are initiating a deeper probe on Facebook’s proposed preventive actions regarding the proliferation of suspicious accounts as such activities on the platform continue to threaten the personal data privacy and other security-related rights of its Filipino users,” it said.
“This is not our first encounter with Facebook. You may recall that in 2018, the Commission probe into the exploitation of the “View As” feature to extract user’s access tokens without their consent resulted in an order to comply with the provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2012, such as establishing a dedicated help desk for Filipino data subjects on privacy related matters.
“Now, we call again for Facebook’s compliance with laws, rules, and regulations under our jurisdiction. This ensures that responsible social media platforms shall elevate their community standards to a level that adequately protects the data privacy rights of Filipino data subjects and rights to free speech and expression,” it said.