Batac City police apologize for misleading infographic

VIGAN CITY — The Philippine National Police in Batac City, Ilocos Norte apologized after receiving criticism from netizens for misrepresenting an infographic on the Anti-Terrorism law originally posted by a red-tagged media outfit.

Administrators of the page have since deleted the post, followed by an apology on January 24.

“We apologize for the misleading information regarding the Anti-Terror Bill the other day as it was erroneously posted. Rest assured that this won’t happen again because our main objective is to protect everyone against misleading information,” PNP Batac City said.

On January 21, the police station uploaded on its official Facebook Page an edited infographic calling the stop of terrorism and informing the public of supposed terrorist acts. The police also failed to cite the source of the image.

Journalist and former Philippines Graphic editor Joel Pablo Salud, in a Facebook post, assailed the Batac City police.

“It seems the Batac Police meme not only made a really bad poster (including their definition of a terrorist), but they also stole graphics from a [People’s Alternative Media Network] poster. Donating or helping relief drives not part of government is a terrorist act?” Salud said.

The country’s human rights body also took notice of the post.

“Pinapaalalahanan ng Commission on Human Rights ang mga kapulisan na maging maingat sa pagbabahagi ng mga impormasyon sa kanilang mga opisyal na social media accounts, lalung-lalo na kung ito ay misleading at maaring makakapahamak sa mga mamamayan,” said Atty. Jaqueline de Guia in a statement.

(The Commission on Human Rights reminds the police to be careful in sharing information on their official social media accounts, especially misleading information that can put people in danger.)

She added that while the Anti-Terrorism Law was enacted in 2020, a lot of its provision still needs clarification to prevent its use to subvert people’s rights.

Sorry, not sorry

PNP Batac’s public apology came with an infographic claiming Altermidya’s post as fake news with the text – “Maging mulat tungkol sa kumakalat na impormasyong mapanlinlang tungkol sa Anti-Terror Bill.

(Be critical about misleading information on the Anti-Terror Bill being circulated.)

Posted on March 6, 2020, the original infographic was part of the Altermidya’s information campaign.

“The infographic was meant to explain the dangers of the Anti-Terrorism Bill. Unfortunately, the PNP used the material to suit its agenda. Now they say it’s fake news,” said Altermidya National Coordinator Rhea Padilla.

She explained that the content of the poster came from the Anti-Terrorism Bill (Senate Bill 1083) itself. The terrorist acts listed under Section 4 of the proposed law were translated into Filipino.

Altermidya was among the organizations accused by National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as communist fronts.

Despite widespread protests, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill in June last year. President Rodrigo Duterte signed the legislation, Republic Act No. 11479 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, on July 3. It came into effect on July 18, 15 days after it was published in the Official Gazette.

NTF-ELCAC Executive Director Allen Capuyan alleged Altermidya is part of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Propaganda Bureau during the December 1 Senate hearing. Its spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., also claimed the CPP created the group on a Facebook post. The officials included in their claim other alternative media outfits, including Northern Dispatch.

Lies upon lies

The apology of Batac City police came on the same day the Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted the “inconsistencies” of its post on alleged University of the Philippines students, who were killed or captured in military clashes with the New People’s Army.

“We sincerely apologize for those who were inadvertently affected by inconsistencies regarding the List of Students who joined the NPA (Died or Captured) that was posted in the AFP Information Exchange Facebook account. That article has since been immediately taken down or deleted from our social media accounts,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

Uploaded on January 22, the list contained 27 names, including former public officials. At least eight were alive and working in different fields, Rappler reported. The military deleted the post morning of the following day.

In a separate statement, De Guia underscored that such blunder “continues to be a cause for serious concern.” The CHR spokesperson added that “similar lapses, if left unchecked, can put reputations and lives in serious danger.”

“CHR continues to stress that government institutions, including the AFP, are imbued with an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of all persons. In this specific case, such obligation for human rights does not only include protecting groups and individuals from harm, but also involves ensuring that government actions do not put innocent lives in peril,” she said.

De Guia advised the AFP also reminded the military to be “loyal to truth, fairness, and the rights enshrined and guaranteed by the Constitution, such as due process and presumption of innocence among others.”