For anti-Duterte netizen, online troll attacks turn into real-world nightmare
EXCLUSIVE: The Philippine National Police files a criminal complaint against Willyn Trabajador, whom they accuse of posting a bomb threat against the President's followers. But Trabajador insists her account was cloned.
By Natashya Gutierrez | September 15, 2017
For anti-Duterte netizen, online troll attacks turn into real world nightmare
AT A GLANCE
- A bomb threat and assassination plot against the President posted by Facebook page Lyn Ouvrier went viral on social media in March
- Willyn Trabajador, who has used the alias Lyn Ouvrier in the past to criticize the administration, claims that her Lyn Ouvrier account was cloned by a Duterte supporter to ruin her reputation
- Trabajador now faces a criminal complaint filed by the police before the Department of Justice, for violation of the Cybercrime Law
MANILA, Philippines – “We are going to plant bombs at the Luneta Park on April 2nd, 2017 in order to protect the Vice President and disrupt the rally to be organized by fanatics of Duterte.”
It was a Facebook post that made waves in the Philippines, angering online supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Today, Willyn Trabajador alias Lyn Ouvrier – who police allege are responsible for posting the threat – is facing a criminal complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ), filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
But Trabajador, who admits she is a self-confessed critic of Duterte, has vehemently denied that she posted the threat. She has maintained she is a victim of identity theft and that her Facebook account was cloned.
"Only a certified idiot would truly believe that I, a noted human rights defender and terrorism critic, would be stupid enough to post a self-incriminating bomb threat on a public forum using my identifiable face for everyone to see and identify, and my birth name as the FB (url)," she posted on April 10.
It has been 6 months since the bomb threat posted by a Facebook page using her name and alias changed her life.
On March 25, the bomb threat posted by a Facebook user named Lyn Ouvrier – the same alias Trabajador uses – went viral.
A screenshot of the threat was first shared by an account named “Khayri Woulfe for President” at 4:35 pm that day.
“Mga ka-DDS alam na this! Ingat kayo sa gaganapin niyong rally sa April 2! Kapag may naganap na bomb scare o aktuwal na pagsabog, alam niyo na kung sino ang may kasalanan at kung sino ang kakasuhan. Lyn Ouvrier is Willyn Trabajador in real life, a devout fanatic of Leni and Leila,” his post read.
(Fellow DDS, now we know! Be careful at the rally on April 2! If there’s a bomb scare or an actual explosion, you all know who is to blame and who to file a case against.)
DDS stands for Diehard Duterte Supporters, the name the President’s supporters like to call themselves. Leni refers to Vice President Leni Robredo, while Leila is Senator Leila de Lima. Both are members of the opposition.
Around the same time, another previous post from the same Lyn Ouvrier account resurfaced. “If our plan to impeach Duterte doesn’t work, we will plot an assassination attempt against him," it read.
Khayri Woulfe’s post was spread widely – with Duterte supporters calling for Ouvrier’s head.
Former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III, a supporter of the President, shared Ouvrier’s bomb threat post on his Facebook page on March 26.
He cited Presidential Decree No. 1727, which states that any threats “by means of explosives, incendiary devices, and other destructive forces of similar nature or characteristics, shall upon conviction be punished with imprisonment of not more than five (5) years, or a fine or not more than forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) or both.”
“This stupid post by troller Lyn Ouvrier (an alias) in Facebook (now deactivated) could land her in jail,” he declared.
Alunan pinned the threat on Trabajador, without concrete evidence. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet)
“Someone said that she's allegedly blogger Wilynn Trabajador. Trabajador is ‘laborer’ in English and ‘ouvrier’ in French, and a rabid fan of a political personality. Nagwawala na itong mga ito (They’re going crazy). Hollow heads on emotional overdrive.”
On March 30, columnist and Duterte propagandist Antonio Contreras, dedicated an article to Lyn Ouvrier on The Manila Times entitled, “The crimes of Lyn Ouvrier, a certified Leni troll.”
The article accused Ouvrier of using “her vitriol on Duterte supporters.”
“She thought she could get away with this. She is dead wrong,” Contreras wrote. (READ: State-sponsored hate: The rise of the pro-Duterte bloggers)
He tagged Ouvrier as a "terrorist," adding that Ouvrier is “even willing to commit a crime in (the Vice President’s) name.”
Contreras went on to say that Ouvrier “placed herself against one of the most formidable social media army of activists that has emerged in the cyber-mediated political landscape. And here, she has to contend with a determined group.”
He ended his article by calling her a “committed criminal.”
Online, netizens showed no mercy. Trabajador’s home address in Dasmariñas, Cavite and her phone number and email addresses were spread widely on social media. Online comments were vicious.
Facebook user Homer Ricafranca posted, “Let us hunt her down, prosecute her, and if found guilty, hang her! No other way to treat a criminal!”
Another user, Tony Castillo, called for her death. “She is now a National Security Risk! As such she should be taken down by our government forces,” he posted.
Hainee Sampao, another netizen, asked to use her as an example to other anti-Duterte trolls by putting her in prison. “Why not give a sample by putting this in jail?” she posted.
The mob attacked without doing due dilligence. The damage was done.
Trabajador said that after her address and contact details were exposed, “that’s when I experienced the threats and harassment from the pro-Dutertes.”
She recounted her ordeal in a Facebook post.
"Last March 27 around midnight, I woke up to a series of menacing phone calls from strangers – some were curious calls, most were harassments and death threats – all from Duterte supporters. The trigger? A threat to bomb the Luneta rally held by the pro-Dutertes last April 2 that, according to my 'charming' callers, were posted by me on Facebook and that has gone viral," she said.
“The most chilling one was a phone call from a guy with a Visayan accent who claimed he's in the same Cavite area as I am and vowed to kill me at all costs."
‘My account was cloned’
Willyn Trabajador, 32, is a proud supporter of the Vice President – and is the first to admit she is a Duterte critic.
She is an administrator of Facebook Group Resbak Operatives, which describes its mission: "cleanse Facebook of fake and malicious stories by eliminating fake news pages and troll accounts of the pro-DU30 camp."
She said she started the group when DDS trolls started targeting and harrassing those on the friends list of vocal anti-Duterte netizens like her. The group Resbak Operatives and its members consistently report to Facebook pro-DDS groups that share false information.
Trabajador does not deny that she has two accounts: one with her real name, Willyn Trabajador, and another with alias Lyn Ouvrier, which she has used to criticize the current administration.
A review by Rappler of the Lyn Ouvrier account owned by Trabajador, indeed showed past posts against the government and its supporters, using profanity and name-calling. Trabajador herself even admitted that her Lyn Ouvrier account has been suspended several times by Facebook – although she said it is because the pro-Duterte groups ganged up on reporting her account.
But while she conceded her posts are fiery, she said this does not mean she was the person who posted the bomb threat. Trabajador insisted that the Lyn Ouvrier account that posted the bomb threat was a cloned account, created by a DDS troll.
“Those were posted by someone who cloned me," she said. "Ironically, the person who was credited for exposing the 'threats' was the same person who has been harassing and threatening me since February. Khayri Woulfe.”
Trabajador reported the cloning of the account immediately in the morning of March 27, when she filed a blotter report in her barangay for identity theft. She said she also went to the Dasmariñas PNP hoping to file another report, but she was advised to go to the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)'s Cybercrime Division in Crame.
“I had no money for the bus fare back and forth, so I instead went to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in Dasmariñas to seek help. They told me to hire a private lawyer because they said PAO can’t handle cybercrime cases. I later found out from another lawyer that is not true,” she said.
The April 2 rally came and went without an explosion or assasination. But for Trabajador, the worst was yet to come.
Aside from relentless harassment, a case against Trabajador was quickly brewing.
According to legal documents sourced by Rappler, Police Superintendent Richard B Vercelles and SPO1 Rommel S. Habig of the CIDG Major Crimes Investigative Unit (MCIU), started an investigation against Trabajador less than two weeks after the threats were first posted.
The CIDG-MCIU received a memo from the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) on April 7, alerting them about the Facebook posts. The ACG's Cyber Terrorism Response section asked the CIDG unit to further investigate the threats, and to determine the true identity of the poster.
Two months later, on June 1, Vercelles and Habig wrote a letter addressed to the DOJ, requesting for preliminary investigation on Trabajador. The letter included a joint affidavit of complaint and evidence they collected against her.
“The acts of the respondent through social media is a clear violation of Section 1 of PD 1727 (Declaring as Unlawful the Malicious Dissemination of False Information of the Wilful Making of any Threat concerning Bombs, Explosives or any Similar Device or Means of Destruction and Imposing Penalties) committed by, through and with the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) pursuant to Sec. 6 of Republic Act 10175 (Cybercrime Act of 2012),” the letter read.
It said that Trabajador “took advantage of the social media to inflict fear [on] the public by posting the bomb threat and the plan to [assassinate] the President of the Republic of the Philippines which is a clear violation of the law.”
“Trusting that this referral will merit preferential attention in the interest of justice,” it said.
The letter was signed by Vercelles as the officer-in-charge of the CIDG-MCIU.
The evidence submitted along with the letter were mostly online screenshots. Aside from the affidavit of Vercelles and Habig, other evidence it submitted included a screenshot of the Resbak Operatives page, screenshots of Lyn Ouvrier’s past posts on her Facebook account, a “link analysis of the Facebook account,” and “other (evidence) to be presented later”.
In the affidavit, Vercelles and Habig said that:
- The true identity of Lyn Ouvrier is Willyn Trabajador according to its online investigation
- The PNP ACG found that Lyn Ouvrier is also the administrator of the Facebook page Resbak Operatives where the bomb threat post was also shared
- The other Facebook account of Willyn Trabajador, under Lyn Ouvrier, is “indeed an Anti Duterte supporter based on the posts seen on her FB account”
- Link analysis of the Facebook account of Lyn Ouvrier “confirmed that she communicates with her sister Princess Alliah Cezaynne Trabajador,” or Helen, thus proving Ouvrier is Willyn Trabajador
The police alleged that past anti-Duterte posts of Trabajador in both her alias account and the anti-DDS group Resbak Operatives, prove that Trabajador is capable of posting the bomb threat.
To prove Ouvrier and Trabajador are the same person, the police zeroed in on Ouvrier’s online public communication with Helen Trabajador whom they alleged was her sister, based solely on a comment wherein Helen calls Ouvrier "sister".
They also said "the word Ouvrier is a French Word which means worker, which is synonymous to the family name of the subject (Trabajador) which is a Spanish word for worker." The police said this was their "initial clue on establishing her true identity." What they said echoed what Alunan alleged in his May 26 Facebook posts.
The police also provided a screenshot of a post by Lyn Ouvrier on April 10, defending herself. In that post, she claimed her account was cloned and that it was the cloned page that posted the bomb threat.
But the police did not provide any evidence countering these cloning claims of Lyn Ouvrier aka Trabajador.
Critics of Trabajador claimed a cloned account is an excuse that is hard to believe, adding it is so often used by netizens who cross the line and find themselves in hot water.
A closer scrutiny of existing online records, however, would seem to indicate Trabajador may have actually been cloned. – Rappler.com
Weaponizing the internet series:
Part 1: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet
Part 2: How Facebook algorithms impact democracy
Part 3: Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media
Inside Martin Andanar's man cave
Bloggers as propagandists series:
Part 1: State-sponsored hate: The rise of the pro-Duterte bloggers
Part 2: Blogger-propagandists, the new crisis managers