General Año upset, takes action vs soldiers spreading fake news

MANILA, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año said he was upset to learn that active officers of the military have been spreading fake news about Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa, attacking her for a statement she did not make.

The military issued a statement on Monday, May 1, calling the actions of retired and active soldiers online "ungentlemanly" and "not in keeping with the AFP as an institution that is committed to the protection and advocacy of human rights, especially those of women."

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, said the Provost Marshall was ordered to investigate the matter.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief General Eduardo Año was very upset by the reports that have spread [on] social media. It was not sanctioned and will never be tolerated by the AFP. Such behavior was not taught at the Philippine Military Academy," Arevalo said in a statement. 

"We publicly apologize to Miss Maria Ressa for the emotional pain, anxiety, and humiliation those irresponsible comments and unkind remarks might have caused her," Arevalo added.

Ressa was the subject of a fake article that got viral on the internet, mangling a statement she made to Canadian television network CBC which was doing a story on, ironically, fake news. 

The fake article – 'Rappler's Maria Ressa claims 90 people per minute wanted to rape her' – remains active as of this posting. 

Ressa's actual statement was: "An average of 90 hate messages an hour.... That's what I dealt with for a month." The TV report was also published as an article on the TV network's website. (READ: 'Democracy as we know it is dead': Filipino journalists fight fake news)

Rappler debunked the fake story and got some help from netizens, with one of them writing an open letter to Año.

The open letter showed screenshots of an alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), a certain Richard Nicanor Carlos, sharing the fake article to attack Ressa. His post prompted similarly malicious comments, the open letter showed. 

"We would like to assure the public and the netizens that your AFP is comprised of professional officers and enlisted personnel whose main preoccupation is combating the enemies of the state that disrupt the peace in the communities and threaten the security of the country," Arevalo said. 

Complete statement

The military's complete statement is posted below:

AFP Statement re "Open Letter to AFP Chief Gen Eduardo Año": 

The "open letter" has come to the attention of the AFP leadership.

It's disappointing that such comments were made in social media on an alleged "fake news" concerning Miss Maria Ressa by the reported active and former members of the organization.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief General Eduardo Año was very upset by the reports that has spread in social media. It was not sanctioned and will never be tolerated by the AFP. Such behavior was not taught at the Philippine Military Academy.

Much as the original post was made by someone who is no longer part of the military, the ungentlemanly comments posted by some who are still in the active service, though in their personal capacities, were nonetheless of poor taste and do not bespeak well of them as members of the military organization.

Gen Año has ordered the Provost Marshall General of the AFP to conduct thorough investigation on the matter forthwith.

We would like to assure the public and the netizens that your AFP is comprised of professional officers and enlisted personnel whose main preoccupation is combating the enemies of the state that disrupts the peace in the communities and threatens the security of the country.

The AFP is composed of Officers and men who have made and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the nation and for fellow Filipinos.

But we will not allow any conduct unbecoming of officers and gentlemen by some individuals who do not represent the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines.

We publicly apologize to Miss Maria Ressa for the emotional pain, anxiety, and humiliation those irresponsible comments and unkind remarks might have caused her.

This is certainly not in keeping with the AFP as an institution that is committed to the protection and advocacy of human rights especially those of women.

– Rappler.com