The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now investigating an online post by one of its stations in Bukidnon province linking ABS-CBN supporters to terrorism.
The allegations were raised just days before Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 takes effect.
Earlier, the Malaybalay City Police Station shared on Facebook an art card with photos of several individuals holding placards with messages of support for ABS-CBN after lawmakers denied its franchise application.
A block of text beside the photos reads: “Malalaman mong sila ay para sa terorismo, papatulan lahat ng isyu basta laban sa gobyerno.” (You’ll know they are for terrorism, if they take advantage of all issues as long as these are against the government.)
The PNP “immediately conducted an initial probe” on the issue, said its spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac.
“The Malaybalay Police chief and those responsible in making such reported post have been asked to explain why no administrative sanctions shall be imposed upon them for making such post that drew negative reactions from the public,” Banac said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
“The PNP imposes very strict guidelines in the proper use of social media,” Banac said.
Malaybalay police chief LtCol. Jerry Tambis clarified that the “terrorist” label was not referring to ABS-CBN and its employees, but rather, to left-leaning groups that expressed support for the network.
“Ang intention ay hindi against sa network. Ang intention ay ‘yung mga placards na ginagamit ng mga left-leaning groups against doon sa terorismo (The intention was not against the network. The intention was against the placards used by left-leaning groups against terrorism.),” said Tambis.
The Facebook post has been deleted, but not after screenshots were made and shared on the social media.
The Northern Mindanao police, which has jurisdiction over Malaybalay, should “not have added injury to the feelings” of its employees, said its spokesperson LtCol. Mardy Hortillosa II.
“We apologize to ABS-CBN… We understand how hard and stressful their situation is right now,” he said in the local dialect.
The post linking ABS-CBN supporters to terrorism came just days before the new Anti-Terrorism Act takes effect on July 18, according to Malacañang.
The legislation, which is being challenged by 9 petitions before the Supreme Court, allows terror suspects to be detained for up to 24 days without charge. Critics said the law also strips away old safeguards such as penalties for wrongful detention.
Supporting ABS-CBN and press freedom should not be considered as terrorism, said National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) safety officer JB Deveza.
“This is a long stretch of police imagination. If they see dissent or opposition to the government as a form of terrorism, then we should be afraid especially now that we have the Anti-Terror Law,” he said in local dialect.
NUJP chair Nonoy Espina, who tweeted a screenshot of the online post, also raised concern over the incident.
“Speaking out against the closure of ABS-CBN and defending press freedom is terrorism? Ilan pa kayang unit ng PNP ang meron nito? (How many more PNP units have a post like this?),” he said.
Red-tagging “does not serve and protect civilians but instead endanger them and their families,” 155 journalists and medical workers from Mindanao said in a statement.
“It would do well for Northern Mindanao police to review the 1987 Constitution. Practicing our right to free speech is neither an act of rebellion nor terrorism,” they added.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said the post was “unethical and unprofessional.”
“Black propaganda ‘yan at hindi dapat para sa isang government agency. Sinasayang nila ng taxes namin sa ganyang kabalbalan (That is black propaganda and improper for a government agencies. They are wasting our taxes with that stupidity.),” said Reyes./Stacy Ang