Government agencies recently released contradicting responses in a now-deleted Facebook post which linked local terrorism to ABS-CBN’s closure.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict maintained its position, alleging that ABS-CBN was used by the communist rebels to spread their propaganda.
Both the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and the Presidential Communications Operations Office, however, disowned the now-deleted post’s content.
On the evening of May 5, the country’s largest broadcaster signed off the air in compliance with the National Telecommunications Commission cease-and-desist order due to the lapse of the network’s franchise.
What NTF-ELCAC posted
On May 9, the NTF-ELCAC, that has a mandate focusing on anti-terrorism and has nothing to do with the network closure, suddenly shared key points justifying the cease of ABS-CBN’s radio and television operations in the country.
The social media post was then re-shared by the official social accounts of PCOO and state-run Radio TV Malacañang or RTVM.
It later on earned criticisms.
The NTF-ELCAC subsequently took down the post but news organizations and some journalists, however, managed to take screenshots of it.
There were two versions of the post. The one picked up by Inquirer.net showed that the task force claimed that the alliance Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front is using ABS-CBN to discredit the government.
“Maging informed. Huwag hayaang gamitin ng CPP-NPA-NDF ang isyu ng ABS-CBN upang sirain at I-discredit ang gobyerno, at linlangin ang sambayanang Pilipino,” part of the post read.
This portion of the post can no longer be found in the screenshots shared by the ABS-CBN News Channel, journalists Barnaby Lo, and Pia Gutierrez.
Lo questioned the motive of the state-run communication offices on sharing such a posts.
“I thought the president had nothing to do with ABS-CBN’s shutdown? Why are offices under him spending precious public resources for propaganda against ABS-CBN?” Lo said.
“Don’t these comms offices have better things to do during a pandemic?” he added.
Already taken down but still worth asking… I thought the president had nothing to do with ABS-CBN’s shutdown? Why are offices under him spending precious public resources for propaganda against ABS-CBN? Don’t these comms offices have better thihgs to do during a pandemic? pic.twitter.com/E3bGAj8fh1
— Barnaby Lo (@barnabychuck) May 9, 2020
Gutierrez, meanwhile, addressed the NTF-ELCAC and asked why it has a say on the franchise issue.
“Bakit may opinyon sa isyu ng pagrenew ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN ang National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict?” she said.
— Pia Gutierrez (@pia_gutierrez) May 9, 2020
Contradicting responses from government entities
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar immediately denied the PCOO’s involvement in the post of the NTF-ELCAC.
Andanar said that it was done “without the usual vetting process of our office.”
“The posted content is not in any way an official statement or an opinion of the PCOO. The issue regarding ABS-CBN Corporation’s network franchise remains within the purview of Congress,” he said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, however, argued that it is the NTF-ELCAC’s duty to dip its toes to any problem involving leftist groups’ activities against the government.
“If the left is exploiting the issue, which it is, then NTF-ELCAC must come in and at the least warn and inform the people about the issues,” Esperon told Manila Bulletin.
“Freedom of the press is not the issue here. I go for law and order,” he added.
NTF-ELCAC also defended itself in a new lengthy post on May 10.
NTF ELCAC Statement Regarding the CPP NPA NDF’s accusation of our meddling in the ABS CBN issueThe CPP NPA NDF,…
The task force continued to claim that through ABS-CBN’s franchise problems, the CPP-NPA-NDF is using militant groups such as Bayan Muna, BAYAN, and Anakbayan, and even media organizations such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines in the propaganda to “sow chaos and division” among the Filipinos.
“The CPP NPA NDF, through its above and below ground organizations, will stop at nothing and will use everything to sow chaos and agitate and divide the Filipino people against its government to reach its one and only end goal: overthrow of government and then to replace it with their obsolete, godless, vicious ideology: communism–at a time in our world’s history when this ideology has edged its way to near-extinction,” the post read.
The post also cited human rights organizations such as Karapatan, Amnesty International, and even the think tank IBON Foundation as among the groups the communist rebels are allegedly using as fronts to their agenda.
Collective statement from media groups
The NUJP, media organizations, journalists, and news outfits collectively denounced the NTF-ELCAC over its claims and called it “black propaganda.”
STATEMENT CONDEMNING NTF-ELCAC’S BLACK PROPAGANDA AGAINST ABS-CBN AND MARIA RESSA10 May 2020We, media groups, news…
“We, media groups, news outfits, journalists, and academics, condemn the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for a black propaganda offensive on social media against ABS-CBN and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa,” the statement read.
“These Facebook posts, while they have been taken down, are a brazenly criminal abuse of authority on the part of the NTF-ELCAC, replete with half-truths and outright lies that willfully endanger Maria and the management and personnel of the network that government shut down,” it added.
This alliance sought the Armed Forces of the Philippines to investigate on who among the NTF-ELCAC should be held responsible for creating the post.
“At a time when our people are battling a deadly pandemic, it is extremely unacceptable that there are those in government who are making media repression, not saving lives, as the priority,” the statement said.