The recent public rebuke of Facebook by President Duterte does not indicate his supposed dictatorial tendency as alleged by critics, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
Panelo explained that the President merely criticized Facebook for the removal of “legitimate” accounts that support the government’s advocacies such as the campaign against terrorism and communist insurgency.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes earlier hit back at Duterte’s alleged dictatorial tactic when he threatened to ban Facebook in the country, saying it was the same scheme used against Rappler and ABS-CBN network. Reyes also said Duterte had practically admitted the government was behind the alleged fake accounts taken down by Facebook.
“Sinasabi nila si Presidente, o naku parang istilong diktador na naman ito dahil sa kanyang pagbabanta sa Facebook operation gaya ng paggawa nila sa Rappler at ABS-CBN (They say the President has shown his dictatorial style after his threat against Facebook operation. It was supposedly the same tactic done to Rappler and ABS-CBN),” Panelo said during his “Counterpoint” program Friday.
“Iba naman ‘yung banta ni Presidente sa Facebook. Huwag mo ihalintulad sa Rappler at ABS-CBN. ‘Yung sa Facebook, sinasabi ni Presidente bakit mo naman tatanggalin ‘yung ginagawa ng pamahalaan na mag-advocate na laban sa terorista, komunista na sumisira ng ating lipunan (The President’s threat to Facebook is different. Do not compare it with Rappler and ABS-CBN. On Facebook, the President asked why it was removing the government’s efforts to advocate against terrorism and communist that destroy our nation),” he said.
Panelo insisted that the case of Rappler stemmed from a cyber libel complaint by an individual while ABS-CBN was unable to get congressional nod on the renewal of its lapsed franchise.
On allegations that the government was behind the so-called troll accounts, Panelo attested to the legitimacy of the concerned accounts removed by Facebook. He admitted that the government has been using social media platform to promote its advocacies for wider public reach.
“Hindi naman mga trolls ‘yun. ‘Yun talaga lehitimo yun. That’s legit account ng Facebook (Those are not trolls. Those are really legitimate. That’s legit account on Facebook),” he said.
“Kumbaga, itong program ng gobyerno ginawang platform ‘yun para doon sa mga hindi nagbabasa ng news, nanonood ng mga TV program, dito sa Facebook dahil ‘yan ang nagiging platform na halos lahat ng mahilig sa social media o kaya we take advantage of that para maraming makakaalam (In other words, the government program used the platform for those who don’t read the news and watch tv program, and get their news instead on Facebook because it has become a platform for avid social media users that’s why we take advantage of that so more people will know),” he said.
In a televised address Monday, the President lashed out at Facebook for taking down several pro-government pages, questioning their purpose in the country. He said he wanted to talk to Facebook after asking why he should allow them to continue to operate in the country if it cannot help the government.
“You know, Facebook, insurgency is about overturning government,” Duterte said. “What would be the point of allowing you to continue if you cannot help us?” he asked.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque later clarified that the President just sought a dialogue with Facebook and apparently does not necessarily want a ban on its operations in the country. Roque however recognized the need for new policies to “level the playing field” on Facebook after alleged engaged in censoring pro-government content online.