House of Representatives

House eyes probe into fake Facebook accounts linked to PH military, police

Rambo Talabong
House deliberations on the Department of National Defense budget has been deferred due to concerns over the fake social media accounts

The chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability has suggested a congressional inquiry into the fake Facebook accounts linked to the Philippine military and police.

House eyes probe into fake Facebook accounts linked to PH military, police

Bulacan 1st District Representative Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, sponsor of the proposed Department of National Defense budget for 2021, raised this while being quizzed by Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago during the period of deliberations at the House plenary on the DND budget on Tuesday, October 6.

The interpellation lasted until past 3 am on Tuesday, and ended with many of Elago’s questions still unanswered. The approval of the DND budget was deferred and will be tackled again on Friday, October 9.

Elago’s questions were based on Facebook’s takedown of a network of fake accounts that displayed “inauthentic behavior” in generating and steering discussion against youth activists and the opposition, and also support for the controversial anti-terror law. Facebook said the network had links to the Philippine police and military.

Since then, at least 3 military personnel have been identified as among the operators of the fake network.

The money question

During the deliberations, Elago asked Sy-Alvarado how Army Captain Alexandre Cabales and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were able to manage Facebook accounts and allegedly fund advertisements in the fake accounts, which Facebook pegged at around $1,100 or around P55,000.

“The DND is saying that they were not the ones spending (for the Facebook pages),” Sy-Alvarado replied.

Elago kept on pushing Sy-Alvarado for a response, even urging him to ask the DND himself, but defense officials continued to deny any disbursement for the accounts. Elago was not convinced.

How was he able to travel?

Elago asked how Cabales was able to manage one of the recently deactivated Facebook pages, Hands Off Our Children, and was able to travel around the country for its projects if he did not spend public funds.

Sy-Alvarado said Cabales’ travels were funded by the members of Hands Off Our Children, who are parents against child exploitation and trafficking allegedly by the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“I just hope that he was on leave of absence (when he traveled),” Sy-Alvarado added.

An impartial probe?

Elago called on the DND to conduct a deeper probe into Cabales and the accounts linked to the military and the police. The military earlier said it would withhold passing judgment on Cabales until they met with Facebook officials on the military officer’s social media violations.

Sy-Alvarado then suggested a House probe.

“In the interest of the people, maybe it is more fair for the House of the people to hold an investigation, instead of his own colleagues,” Sy-Alvarado said, referring to the DND and the AFP.

Budget approval deferred

With the DND leaving lawmakers with more questions than answers, Elago moved for the deferment of deliberations on the agency’s budget, which was approved.

“The AFP is the protector of the people and the state. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory. Why are they attacking the youth and students?” Elago said. (READ: Lorenzana defends fabricated posts spread by PH military on social media)

She added: “It is clear that they are not fulfilling their mandate. They continue to waste the funds of the people to attack the people. For all these grave causes of, I move to defer the DND budget deliberations.” –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.