PDP-Laban President and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi (File photo)

MANILA – The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP Laban) party has expressed alarm over the massive flagging of Facebook (Meta) Philippines of the party’s official posts and photos as well as various pages of its national and local candidates.

In a press statement, PDP-Laban president and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi pinned the blame on the opposition, saying the move was supposedly done as part of efforts to discredit the accomplishments of the Duterte administration and maliciously influence voters’ decisions ahead of the May polls.

“It is alarming that a foreign media company is blatantly controlling and censoring in violation of our freedom of speech and the right to information and expression of not only our citizens but as well as many of our government institutions. This is a direct attack on the rights and sovereignty of Filipinos,” Cusi said.

He challenged Facebook to stay “neutral and apolitical” in the last few days of the election campaign and during the proceedings of the May 9 national and local elections.

“Let the people speak and express their opinions on this very important matter. Let the Filipino people decide,” he added.

PDP Laban Secretary-General, Cabinet Secretary Melvin Matibag, for his part, said Facebook’s censorship through their so-called community standards is “unethical” and “against public safety and national security”, especially this election season.

“This flagging, blocking and censorship affect the Filipinos’ freedom to choose and vote in favor of the candidates they truly believe in,” Matibag said.

Matibag questioned the third-party fact-checkers that partnered with Facebook Philippines to prevent false news from spreading on the social media platform.

In 2018, Facebook announced its partnership with VERA files and Rappler to help fight the spread of fake news.

“I was told that Facebook employs third-party fact-checkers to monitor and censor posts that are allegedly against community standards. Who are these fact-checkers that even official government press statements and legitimate news stories are being censored?” he said.

Some of the PDP Laban posts that were flagged and taken down by Facebook include the endorsement of President Duterte of the candidacy of House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta and former Anti-Corruption czar Greco Belgica and especially PDP Laban's endorsement of the candidacies of former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. for President and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for Vice President.

On Sunday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) also condemned the multiple flagging of its official posts and shared stories of government media agencies.

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson and Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy described Facebook’s move as “pathetic, cowardly, desperate, and lutang (floating)”

Posts of government institutions, including the Philippine News Agency, were flagged and blocked by Facebook for violating its community standards.

Since Saturday night, Facebook has been notifying those who have shared the news articles and developmental stories from PNA, tagging the posts as violations of the platform’s community standards on cybersecurity.

A post of National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in which he claimed that communists had “infiltrated Congress through the party-list system” was also flagged by the social media giant.

“It even censored the statement of our National Security Adviser, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. Facebook curtailed the legitimate post of one of our officials, who for the sake and love of our country, called on Filipinos to unite against the New People’s Army. And what’s wrong with letting people know the truth about a listed terrorist organization by several countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand? Indeed, this is a matter of national security,” Matibag added.

Meta head of politics and government outreach for Asia and the Pacific Roy Tan said Facebook is already investigating the issue. (PNA)