By Aaron Recuenco
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) wants its uniformed personnel and civilian employees to “behave properly” when using their social media accounts, especially when expressing their opinions and sharing posts that could put the military or any of its units in a “bad light.”
Not only uniformed personnel and civilian employees, but their dependents were also asked to maintain proper behavior in their online and social media activities.
Capt. Jonathan Zata, chief military information officer, said the move is a reiteration of the AFP’s 2016 policy on social media, which he said “specifically called for proper etiquette and a high standard of conduct and behavior in any and all online interaction or activity.”
“All AFP military, civilian human resource, to include dependents, are directed to practice caution in publicizing personal opinion especially when engaging in social media activities,” Zata said in a statement, citing the directive issued to the different commanders of the major services and unified commands.
The directive was issued by the Office of the AFP Chief of Staff, General Felimon Santos Jr.
Among the improper forms of behavior enumerated in the statement are posting or sharing online any materials that violate existing laws, rules, and regulations, and information that harms or puts other people in embarrassing, inconvenient, and/or humiliating positions, and puts the AFP or any of its units in a bad light.
“While posting personal opinion is not strictly prohibited, all personnel must ensure that their posts are not misconstrued as official releases, statements, or position of the AFP,” Zata said.
Sought for comment on why the AFP leadership issued the reiteration, Zata said there is nothing new in the directive as they regularly remind their personnel about proper decorum on social media.
“We try to be as proactive as we can especially now that most Filipinos have ample time to be in front of the computers. This being recognized as the new normal,” he said.
He said the directive was issued on Tuesday “on account of posts and comments monitored in socmed in the past.”
Santos was recently widely criticized on social media for writing the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines to seek his assistance in procuring from China five boxes of medicine for COVID-19, which Santos said helped him recover from the disease. The drug is not available in the Philippines.
The letter was leaked and became viral on social media. A number of netizens questioned the propriety of the letter, which they said used the letterhead of the office of the Chief Of Staff of the AFP, but the request for assistance was personal and allegedly violated rules of the Food and Drug Administration.
Santos later recalled the letter, as disclosed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Reminder to commanders, spokespersons
In the statement, Zata said the AFP leadership also reminded its commanders and spokespersons to follow the security-accuracy-propriety-policy rule published in a 2007 letter-directive.
Security, according to Zata, refers to measures that prevent unauthorized persons from having access to official and classified information, while accuracy refers to the correctness of all data, names, figures, quotations, and statements.
Propriety, he added, limits to the proper authority the disclosure of information within their official capacity and responsibility.
Policy, on the other hand, refers to the adherence to a broad course of action or guidance adopted by the government in pursuit of certain objectives.
“Each member of our organization has a responsibility to protect not only our physical structures and the lives they contain, but more importantly the people’s trust and confidence that took many years to build,” Santos said in the statement.
“Our ranks and positions as public servants hold us to higher standards of discipline and behavior and we are expected to live up to these in every aspect of our lives,” he added.