Netizens call out Army for 'photoshopped' image of communist surrenderers

FLOATING PEOPLE? This photo release from the Philippine Army, part of their press statement on communist rebels who surrendered in Masbate, appears to be digitally altered. Photo from the Philippine Army

FLOATING PEOPLE? This photo release from the Philippine Army, part of their press statement on communist rebels who surrendered in Masbate, appears to be digitally altered.

Photo from the Philippine Army

It was supposed to be just another photo of rebels surrendering to the military.

On the 51st founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Philippine Army announced that some 306 rebels turned themselves in to the military on Thursday, December 26.

Along with their press statement of mass surrender came photos of the alleged rebels in Masbate – a momentous event for the Philippine Army that has an axe to grind with the communists.

But now, the event itself is in question.

According to the press release sent on Thursday via Viber, the communist rebels were supposedly composed of members and supporters of the New People's Army, Milisyang Bayan, and Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad.

The Philippine Army said the group surrendered 49 different firearms as well.

On Friday, December 27, some news agencies carried the photo release on their social media accounts. But netizens pointed out that the photos were digitally manipulated or "photoshopped."

Rappler reached out to Major Ricky Aguilar, the reference person in the press release, regarding the matter. He said the photos came from the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) in the Bicol Region, and that he would ask the unit for an explanation.

"Galing po ['yun] sa 2IB. Sorry at 'di ko rin napansin. (It's from 2IB. Sorry, I didn't notice.) Anyway, I'll ask the concerned unit," the spokesperson of the 9th Infantry Division said.

Digitally manipulated? At first glance, the photo appeared as real, but a closer look prompted some to ask why there are no shadows in the photo. 

Looking from afar, it appears that the photos have different sources of lighting. The table is illuminated from the bottom, therefore casting a shadow to the left.

LIGHT SOURCE. The red arrows (emphasis ours) show the source of light based on the images' shadows. Photo from Philippine Army

LIGHT SOURCE. The red arrows (emphasis ours) show the source of light based on the images' shadows.

Photo from Philippine Army

Meanwhile, the image of the people appears to be illuminated from above, giving an impression that this particular image was superimposed on the original photo.

Another thing worth noting is the image quality. The red box on the left (emphasis ours) also shows that the resolution of the image of the people (on the right) and that of the table with firearms (on the left) are different. The image of the table has better quality while the image of the people is blurred.

CROPPED? The red box on the right (emphasis ours) shows the cropped foot of the man. Photo from Philippine Army

CROPPED? The red box on the right (emphasis ours) shows the cropped foot of the man.

Photo from Philippine Army

The smaller red box on the right, meanwhile, showed that the foot of the man on the lower right side of the photo seemed to have been cropped. 

Twitter user @IAmJoannaD also noted that the clothes of the alleged rebels matched an old photo posted on Facebook in June 2017. At least 8 alleged rebels have the same clothes as those in the June 2017 photo.

Response

In a statement sent to Rappler, the Army admitted to manipulating the photos to "ensure the safety" of the surrenderers. Aguilar said they were "not able to double check" the photos prior to dissemination.

"Our line unit's intention is not to mislead the public, but to protect the lives of the former rebels (FRs) who placed themselves at risk by surrendering to the government," said Aguilar.

While the Army said it was a mistake to digitally manipulate the photos, it did not address the observation that the rebels in the edited photo were wearing the same clothes as those who surrendered in 2017.

"We admit to have committed a mistake though by manipulating the picture for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of the lives of the FRs and their families," Aguilar said.

"We apologize for the honest mistake. We are hoping for your kind understanding," he added.  Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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