MANILA – Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), on Friday warned that Facebook’s repeated attempts to censor and restrict the posts of government officials creates a chilling effect in the world of social media.
Egco issued the statement after the US-based tech giant recently warned National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. for a post that urged Filipinos to unite against the 53-year-old communist insurgency that has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Filipinos. Facebook has since then restored Esperon’s post but without admitting it committed a mistake, an implied admission of error.
Like Esperon, Egco said he and other officials critical of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) such as Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy have been “restricted” several times to post in Facebook.
He suspected that they fell victims to the so-called “mass reporting,” a frail mechanism embedded in Facebook supposedly to combat hate speech and the like but is actually being used and abused by aboveground and underground groups linked with the insurgency to effect the taking down of any post they deem adverse to their narratives or interests.
“Usec Badoy has shown what a 21st century woman really should be. She doesn’t have to play the gender card. She has displayed more grit and backbone than most men when she minces no word in calling a spade a spade. Such woman of courage deserves our highest respect – unceasing and unfazed for standing up for the truth – and I stand with Usec Lorraine Badoy,” the Palace official added.
He said that if Facebook can do this to government officials, what more to ordinary Filipinos.
Egco also serves as spokesperson for Mass Media Engagements and Fact-Checker of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) while Badoy is its spokesperson for New Media and Sectoral Concerns.
“To avoid being accused of undue censorship and stifling freedom of expression, Facebook should be more prudent, discerning and intelligent in restricting posts from the government whose only aim is to achieve a better future for our countrymen,” Egco said.
“Allow me to remind Facebook that under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), it is specified there that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” he added.
“Indeed, we echo the sentiment of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) that it is alarming and dangerous for Facebook to restrict the posts of officials who are earnestly combatting communist terrorist groups (CTGs) operating in the country, such as the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Egco said.
“Mind you, if we allow the communists to run the government, there will be no more freedom of expression and that will be the end of Facebook, Youtube, Messenger or Tiktok in the Philippines as these CTGs will never allow these social media platforms to be used freely by Filipinos. They have zero-tolerance for dissent.” he added.
Egco said that Facebook should heed the call of the international community to be vigilant but fair in its efforts to connect people of different backgrounds, beliefs and ideologies, noting that the Philippines has welcomed and allowed the social media giant to freely operate in the country without interference.
Egco said he personally knows the travails of joining the communist insurgency as he was himself a former student activist, cadre and later an NPA combatant.
He said that he lost friends and scholarships and severely strained his relations with his parents and loved ones until he found the courage to leave the underground movement, embrace his family, and rebuild his life.
Egco then took the path of journalism until he rose from being a campus reporter to editor to becoming the president of the country’s biggest and one of the oldest groups of legitimate journalists – the National Press Club of the Philippines.
Egco emphasized that the primary goal of the NTF-ELCAC is to have an insurgency-free Philippines.
“We are not against anyone espousing an ideology, that is part of free speech which our Constitution holds sacred. What we are against is these groups recruiting our children to bear arms for the violent overthrow of our democratically instituted government. We must work together to bring an end to this cycle of violence perpetrated by the CTGs. The government and Facebook can work together for the good of all Filipinos, especially since it is the most popular social media platform in the country,” Egco said, adding that PTFoMS has already partnered with Facebook before to prevent the medium to be used to bully or harass journalists and other media workers with impunity, especially against women. (PR)