Catholic Church

Shepherd’s gate breached: Another Filipino bishop falls to hackers

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Shepherd’s gate breached: Another Filipino bishop falls to hackers

SHEPHERD. Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco leads the Palm Sunday celebration at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral on April 2, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Before the Facebook account of Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco was hacked, the Diocese of Butuan’s page was also compromised – and is a (gulp!) porn account to this day

The shepherd guards the gate against the wolves, proclaims the Good Book, and Catholic bishops have indeed wielded their staffs for centuries to protect their flock. 

But when it comes to online “gates,” they might need a little more wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude… and, well, digital hygiene. 

Another Filipino bishop, 74-year-old Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, fell prey to Facebook hackers, the Diocese of Cubao announced on Wednesday, October 11. The diocese now fears that the hackers might solicit donations in the bishop’s name.

“The Facebook account of Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco, his secretary Sister Meriam Bauzon, RVM, and Reverend Father Rey Hector Paglinawan have been compromised,” the Diocese of Cubao said.

“Please refrain from responding to them if they are asking for monetary assistance,” the diocese added.

Ongtioco is the second Filipino bishop to fall prey to hackers this year. In August, 69-year-old Kidapawan Bishop Colin Bagaforo said his own account and the Facebook page of the Diocese of Kidapawan were also hacked. That same month, Bagaforo appealed to the Senate to probe recent hacking incidents.

The Facebook page of the Diocese of Butuan was likewise compromised earlier this year. The page, apparently unrecovered, shows pornographic materials to this day – alongside the archived photos of priests and religious quotes. One art card screams “Pentecost Sunday” while two women, one of them biting her finger, look at readers straight in the eye.

Yikes.

Church insiders have often lamented the difficulty of instilling digital security, and basic online literacy, in a 2,000-year-old institution led in the Philippines by bishops who are mostly in their 60s and 70s

The hacking incidents come at a time when government websites (not that they’re a good benchmark) have also been compromised. We have stories on massive data breaches involving the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and the Philippine Statistics Authority. Even De La Salle University, a Catholic school, recently suffered a “data security incident.”

So, if you are working for the social communications team of your parish or diocese, it might do you well to visit these Rappler links on protecting your online assets:

Don’t wait till the online wolves reach the gates of Saint Peter! – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com