DOF hires Nic Gabunada, operator of fake network on Facebook – report

The Department of Finance (DOF) has hired Nicanor Gabunada Jr., widely known as Nic Gabunada, a public relations practitioner and social media manager of the 2016 Duterte campaign, Philstar reported Monday, June 21.

Gabunada will be serving as the DOF's communications strategy consultant from June 16 to December 15, under a contract awarded on June 10 worth P909,122, according to the report. As consultant, Gabunada will be handling multimedia communications planning, enhancing media mileage, and evaluating public response to campaigns.

Gabunada was earlier tagged as the operator behind a pro-Duterte fake account network which Facebook took down in March 2019. The network was comprised of 200 pages, with about 3.6 million followers following at least one page and about 1.8 million users in at least one group.

In Facebook's blog post about the takedown, head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said, "Although the people behind this [coordinated inauthentic behavior] attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to a network organized by Nic Gabunada."

Gabunada, at the time, told ABS-CBN that he was "surprised" by the takedown, and called it "unfortunate."

Gabunada’s legal team, represented by lawyer Reginald Tongol, issued a statement Monday afternoon, saying there was “nothing inappropriate” in the decision of the Department of Finance to grant its “Service Contract for consultancy” to their client.

He said that “all requirements and the procedures under the Procurement Law were followed and were done aboveboard.”

"What is illegal and violative of our client’s data privacy rights is the unauthorized disclosure of his personal data for no other purpose but to make him and his family easy targets for threats and ridicule," Tongol added.

“Our client will explore all legal actions against these persons,” Tongol said, pointing out that it is “malicious to keep bringing up the solely business prerogative of Facebook in tagging and maligning our client and connecting it with this totally separate and aboveboard agreement.” – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.

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