MANILA, Philippines – It’s true, the Philippine Army is urgently hiring computer programmers and system developers, but it is to boost the service’s coronavirus response operations, and not for “malicious purposes.”
Army spokesperson Colonel Ramon Zagala told this to Rappler on Monday, June 8, in response to a query sent to Army chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay.
Following the proliferation over the weekend of fake Facebook accounts, some netizens asked Rappler whether it could have had anything to do with the Army recruiting information technology (IT) graduates.
The Army advertised the recruitment on its official Facebook page on May 24.
“In the case of computer programmers, their skills are needed in the administration of the Army’s information systems such as personnel data management. Their services are required to upgrade the Army’s internal processes and are in no way to be utilized for malicious purposes,” Zagala said in a statement.
“This is also in line with the Army’s thrust of developing its cyber defense and security capability needed by a modernizing force,” he added.
The selection process for computer programmers and system developers is still underway “to ensure the deserving candidates are fit to enlist in the military service,” Zagala said.
Besides IT practitioners, the Army is also recruiting licensed medical doctors, nurses, registered radiologic technologists, registered medical technologists, registered respiratory technologists, bus or truck drivers, and auto mechanics to boost its capability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the colonel added.
The Army and the other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are involved in several aspects of the government’s response to the pandemic.
Military doctors and nurses are posted at major quarantine facilities in Manila and Pasay City to attend to COVID-19 patients with relatively mild symptoms, and probable cases awaiting confirmatory testing.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered military troops to escort the social welfare department in distributing emergency cash subsidies in remote and critical areas.
The Navy and Air Force have been transporting Filipino repatriates and deliveries of medical supplies and equipment from other countries, particularly China and India.
All 3 service branches are using their trucks and buses to ferry authorized workers, repatriated Filipinos, and stranded persons while public transport remains limited under general community quarantine.
Netizens have been in alarm since Saturday, June 6, over the proliferation of dummy Facebook accounts mimicking real users’ names. The incident was first reported by students of the University of the Philippines Cebu, after 8 people were arrested during a rally against the anti-terrorism bill last Friday, June 5.
The proposed measure gives the government broader powers to identify groups and individuals as terrorists, and to effect longer warrantless arrests of terror suspects.
Some lawmakers and netizens worry the fake accounts can be used to plant incriminating evidence against them, in light of the anti-terrorism bill’s inclusion of posting incendiary messages as a punishable act.