MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – An intelligence report from the Philippines' top intelligence gathering agency turned out to be based on a fake news website.
This was revealed by Senator Richard Gordon in a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Monday, October 17, as he criticized the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
Gordon said that the NICA, which is under the Office of the President, gave the Senate panel a "faulty" intelligence report in the previous hearing.
The NICA earlier submitted a report saying there is a Chinese missile silo or launch facility under the mountains of Zambales, near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
It turned out, however, that the information came from a "satirical and entertainment" website, according to Gordon.
"When we got this, it had a cover document that says confidential. This was submitted to us by the NICA… When we researched the website, this is what it contains, this specific article which was submitted to us, it's partly for satirical and entertainment purposes,” Gordon said.
The website the senator was referring to is called "A New Philippines." Last July 25, it posted a fake news story entitled "Breaking Story: Hidden Chinese Military Base With Alleged Missile Silos Found in Zambales," with a photo of the supposed military base.
The article was by "Intel Guru."
At the bottom, the article had this note: "This specific article is partly for satirical and entertainment purposes and the events should not be construed as pure facts although the mentioned tangible objects exist."
Gordon questioned the poor intelligence skills of the NICA, considering it has P700 million in funds. He then threatened to bring up the issue before the plenary during budget deliberations.
"If that is the state of intelligence in the country, we really are in trouble," the senator said.
The committee is set to summon NICA Director General Rodolfo Arsaga Jr to explain why he should not be cited in contempt.
"The Senate blue ribbon committee is not gonna get fooled. That's why we're gonna bring him back here and ask him why he should not be cited in contempt," Gordon said.
For Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the NICA chief deserves to lose his job over the fiasco.
"He should be fired," Sotto said. – Rappler.com
Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this report, it was indicated that the Senate committee on justice conducted the hearing. It has since been changed to Senate blue ribbon committee.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com