President Duterte does not tolerate Facebook's alleged censorship of pro-government pages but is not keen on banning the social media giant in the country, according to a Palace official.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President merely wanted to talk to Facebook after questioning the shutdown of several advocacy pages that support the administration.
"Hindi naman po siguro dahil ang sabi ni Presidente kinakailangan mag-usap (Maybe not because the President said they only need to talk)," Roque said during a press briefing when asked if Filipinos should be concerned about a possible Facebook ban in the country.
"Ang sabi naman ng Presidente pag-usapan iyan dahil pare-pareho naman silang sinusulong ang karapatan nang malayang pananalita at iyong malayang merkado ng mga idea (The President said let's talk because they're both pushing for the right of free speech and free marketplace of ideas)," he added.
Roque also recognized the potential impact if the government halts Facebook operations, saying this will not bode well for the social media company as well as the Philippines. Around 74 million Filipinos reportedly use Facebook in the country.
"Parehong hindi mabuti iyan sa Facebook at sa Pilipinas (It will not be good for Facebook and the Philippines)," he said.
"Number one po kasi sa buong mundo tayo sa Facebook ‘no. So kung mawawala tayo, malaking kawalan po iyan sa Facebook pero at the same time dahil number one nga tayo, marami ring Pilipinong gumagamit ng Facebook na maaapektuhan din (We are number one in the world who use Facebook. If we don't use, it will be a huge loss to Facebook. But at the same time because we are number one, many Filipino users of Facebook will be affected)," he said.
On Monday night, the President unleashed a sharp rebuke of Facebook for taking down several pages supportive of the administration. Duterte sought a meeting with Facebook after asking why he should allow the company to continue operating in the country.
"What would be the point of allowing you to continue if you cannot help us? We are not advocating mass destruction, we are not advocating mass massacre. It’s a fight of ideas," Duterte said in his televised address.
Facebook earlier took down a network of fake pages and accounts for alleged “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The accounts featuring pro-government content supposedly had links to the military and police while others were traced in China.
Roque has accused Facebook of imposing censorship in the country after removing accounts that backed government interests including fighting the armed communist rebellion.
He said Facebook has removed pro-government pages, including the "Hands off Our Children" page that campaigns against children recruitment by communist insurgents, but has allowed those critical of the administration.
"Hindi po kinukunsinti ni Presidente ang censorship ng mga pro-government advocacies ‘no, kasama na po itong adbokasiya to protect the children against child enlistment as combatants (The President does not tolerate censorship of pro-government advocacies. It includes the advocacy to protect children against child enlistment as combatants)," he said.
Roque argued that Facebook's shutdown of certain pages was not related to the issue of fake news.
"Ang sabi nila ‘inauthentic behavior’, so hindi issue ngayon ang fake news. Ang issue rito is anong epekto noong pagtatanggal ng mga pages na iyan (They said it was due to inauthentic behavior so fake news is not the issue now. The issue here is what is the effect of the removal of these pages). The Philippine government submits it’s a form of censorship," he said.
"Ang punto dito, bakit kapag pabor sa gobyerno, tinatanggal. Kapag pabor sa oposisyon, hindi tinatanggal (The point here is why they remove pages in favor of the government. When it favors the opposition, they don't remove them)," he added.