The Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division (71D) slammed the spread of “fake news” about their encounter with suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in San Nicolas, Pangasinan.
According to a Philippine News Agency (PNA) report, 1Lt. Catherine Hapin, chief of the 71D Kaugnay public information office, condemned how the “malicious information and fake news circulated through text messages and social media” have alarmed some residents.
Fake reports claimed that the NPA rebels abducted some mayors after the rebels’ encounter with the Army’s 3rd Maneuver Company of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 (RPSB1) in San Nicolas, particularly in Camps 3 and 4, and along the boundaries of Barangays Malico and Sta. Maria, and the entire San Nicolas.
The firefight led to the death of a soldier and several rebels with the arrival of the reinforcement troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion, who also conducted pursuit operations. The encounter also placed six district police stations in Pangasinan under full alert status.
No mayor was abducted in Pangasinan, Hapin clarified. She called the reports claiming otherwise to be “false and pure hearsay.”
“The situation has been contained and no enemy harassment has taken place in any of the barangays and towns of the province,” Hapin said.
We found this post about an alleged NPA abduction on Facebook.
Hapin said that the Office of the Municipal Mayor of San Nicolas has released an official statement regarding the fake news that caused the residents to panic. Here is their statement:
Hapin added that Major General Angelito M. de Leon, Commander of 71D Kaugnay, was “determined to see an end to the deplorable acts of the enemy and has ordered an intensified operations of troops to ensure that the enemy will never threaten the peace in Pangasinan.”
This is not the first time that a fake story about NPA rebel attacks has gone viral and caused panic among the citizens, though.
Fake news about student abductions
A Manila Times article covered the story about how officials in the local government units and public schools asked the public to stop spreading unverified news about the abduction of some students in Pangasinan by armed men believed to be NPA rebels.
“The fake news reports are very alarming to us and some of the parents refused to send their children to school for fear that they will be kidnapped by the NPA rebels,” some teachers told the newspaper in an exclusive interview on July 31.
Talongapor Elementary School principal also denied reports about student abductions in their town in Santa Maria, contrary to the reports posted on social media and broadcasted by Metro Manila-based radio stations.
San Nicholas school district supervisor Maxima Bandiola said that schools were still open on July 31 despite the fake reports on social media. She said that she gathered the school principals in her district and told them to encourage parents to continue sending their kids to school because reports of the NPA abductions in San Nicholas are untrue.
Fake news about NPA burning down Bukidnon school
In March, the NPA was the subject of another fake news after they were accused by the military of burning down a high school building in Valencia City.
Mary Jean Subayco, academic head and school secretary of Concepcion National High School in Brgy. Concepcion, Valencia, belied the military’s allegations against the rebels, adding that the source of the fire was an “electrical short circuit.” This is the same cause cited by the Bureau of Fire Protection in its report.
According to Subayco, a cellphone charger that remained plugged in the faculty room overheated, causing the fire. It burned the faculty room and the adjacent library.
Subayco contradicted military reports that the NPA caused the fire.
“I am teaching here (CNHS) for 3 years already and so far the NPA has not visited the school nor engaged in extortion activities,” she told Rappler in a phone interview.
She said the incident did not affect the classes, which went on as usual, except for the unfortunate occurrence of the burned textbooks in the school library.
The 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division reported that the NPA torched the school when the school officials refused to give them money.
First Lieutenant Erwin Bugarin, 8th Infantry Battalion’s civic military officer, said: “The rebel group asked their shared in the fund which was intended for the feeding program of their pupils.”
He added: “It is every evident that the NPA exempts no one in their extortion activities not even the schools which are essential in providing education for our country’s future.”
Meme Buster has also busted fake stories related to the NPA. We busted the fake story about the surrender of an NPA commander and 121 others in Bukidnon, the recycled story about the surrender of 154 NPA rebels allegedly under the Duterte admin although it actually happened in 2015, the NPA commander paying a percentage of revolutionary tax to leftist group BAYAN, former NPA commander owning 5-star resort in El Nido, and more.