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Social media regulation under ATL backed

Hananeel Bordey

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New Southern Luzon Military Commander, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., on Monday expressed support to the inclusion of regulation of social media under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL).

Facing the Commission on Appointments (CA) for the deliberation of his appointment as Brigadier General, Parlade said he supports new Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gilbert Gapay’s proposal to regulate social media under the new anti-terrorism measure as these platforms are used in propagating terrorist activities such as the creation of molotov bombs.

Although he claimed that he is supporting press freedom and freedom of expression, Parlade pointed out that this platform should be considered as this is being used by organizations to “destabilize the government.”

“Through the years technology has evolved. Now we have social media and we all know that social media is being used by organizations to destabilize the government,” he said.

“As we speak now, in social media they are talking about how to make bombs, Molotov bombs, and we are speaking here of some legal organizations or legal organizations discussing about how to make Molotov bombs in social media. I think the chief of staff is right about discussing this issue on the IRR or the use of the IRR if only to make sure that his aspect of preventing or spread of terrorism is addressed,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who brought up the topic during the CA deliberations, then asked Parlade to specify a provision of the ATL that will support his statement.

Parlade did not cite a specific provision but mentioned the inclusion of preparation for the terrorist acts in the definition of terrorism under the ATL.

“The preparatory acts, this is a very good clause of that law, and I think that is one aspect we really need to look at the actions of the people preparing for terrorist actions. And as I have mentioned, discussion on how to make Molotov bombs and how to prepare for attacks is happening as we speak in social media and we are able to monitor it but we cannot do anything about it,” he further justified his position.

Parlade pointed out that there should be a procedure for the security sector to be able to monitor preparatory actions in social media and convince the courts that there is a probable cause on the planning of terrorist activities.

However, Drilon pointed out that monitoring and convincing the courts is “completely separate” from regulating social media.

He then asked Parlade the military’s definition of regulating social media.

Parlade clarified that their statement is “not really about regulating” the platforms but “the way people avail or access social media and the terms and conditions on what they are allowed to do in social media.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson, main author of the ATL, cut the discussion and said that Gapay should have qualified his statement on social media regulation.

“When you say regulate social media, that’s it, regulate. But there are qualifications in the provisions of the ATA of 2020 that we have to establish the intent and purpose,” Lacson told Parlade.

“Motive should be established. It’s not prior restraint. But the use of social media in the planning, preparation and even the execution of terrorist acts. So while I admire your statement that you support the statement of the Chief of Staff, it’s lacking in substance,” he added.

He then told the military officer that they should be sensitive in issuing statements as ATL is a “very sensitive issue” and is currently facing numerous petitions before the Supreme Court.

Drilon then refuted Parlade’s definition of regulation of social media.

“The regulation will determine what they are allowed to do. Mr. General, this is precisely what prior restraint is all about, when you regulate what one is allowed to do. That is prior restraint and that is prohibited,” Drilon, who voted for the ATL, pointed out.

“This precisely prior restraint which is prohibited under our Bill of Rights and under our democratic system of government. Those users of social media who may violate the law would be answerable in terms of sedition and any whatever you have or Anti-Terror Law but you cannot determine that they are not allowed to do,” he added.

As we speak now, in social media they are talking about how to make bombs, Molotov bombs, and we are speaking here of some legal organizations or legal organizations discussing about how to make Molotov bombs in social media.

Parlade told the lawmakers that he submits to the senators’ wisdom on the implementation of ATL adding that the military will leave it to the drafters of the IRR of the measure.

“The idea, sir, is to really prevent or to make sure that we are able to protect our citizens from terrorism. I submit to the wisdom of the Senator, we should not suppress freedom of expression but we have to do something with people who are irresponsible in using and accessing social media,” he added.

After the Committee on National Defense deliberations, the CA has approved Paralde’s ad interim appointment.

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