Doctored photo does not show 'Philippine lawmakers supporting mandatory military service'

·3 min read

An image that appears to show three opposition politicians in the Philippines holding placards in support of mandatory military training has been shared hundreds of times in Facebook and YouTube posts that criticise them for making an apparent U-turn. The claim circulated online after Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte said she wanted to reinstate mandatory military service for Filipinos aged 18 years old. The image, however, has been doctored. The pictured lawmakers told AFP they continue to oppose calls to reinstate mandatory military training in the archipelago.

The image was posted on Facebook on August 17. It has been shared more than 190 times.

The post's Tagalog-language caption accuses opposition lawmakers France Castro, Arlene Brosas and Raoul Manuel of allegedly reversing their stance on proposals to revive ROTC -- the country's mandatory military training programme.

The trio appear to be holding cards that state: "YES TO MANDATORY ROTC!", "WOMEN, SUPPORT ROTC!" and "YOUTH, JOIN ROTC!!"

The post also claims the politicians are "tired of supporting the CPP-NPA-NDF" -- referencing allegations they are linked to communist rebels trying to overthrow the government.

The lawmakers' coalition in Congress previously denied this allegation.

The caption translates in part as: "Rep. France Castro, Rep. Arlene Brosas and Rep. Raoul Manuel urged the public to support ROTC after realising this could bring huge help to the country.

"Though they have criticised this before, they are now openly giving their support. They know this will be beneficial not only for the youth but for the whole country."

Screenshot of the false post taken on September 14, 2022

The Philippine government made ROTC optional in 2002 following the death of a student who exposed alleged corruption in his university's military training programme.

Since she was elected in May this year, Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte has spearheaded calls to reinstate mandatory military service.

At least four bills supporting the move have been filed to the Philippine Congress in July, as seen here, here, here and here.

But Castro, Brosas and Manuel have said they would oppose the measure.

The same image was shared in Facebook posts here, here and here; and on YouTube here alongside a similar claim.

Comments on the posts suggested some users believed the image is genuine.

"That's just for show so they can get sympathy and votes from the people," one wrote.

"Don't believe them, I think they are just pretending to support ROTC," another commented.

The image shared in the posts, however, has also been doctored.

The three lawmakers told AFP they have not changed their stance on mandatory training.

'Against mandatory training'

"The posts that state we are supporting mandatory ROTC are false. We oppose mandatory ROTC," Brosas from Gabriela Women's Party told AFP on September 14.

On the same day, Manuel from Kabataan Partylist said: "We at Kabataan Partylist are firmly against the mandatory ROTC or mandatory military training and we have never been supportive of such proposals."

Castro from ACT Teachers Party-List said her party "strongly" opposes the measure to reinstate ROTC. She told AFP on September 15: "Photos circulating online saying otherwise are false, altered and spreading disinformation."

Doctored photo

Reverse image and keyword searches found the original photo was published on the official Facebook page for the Gabriela Women's Party on August 1.

The caption states the lawmakers were calling for a probe on a clash between state and rebel forces that local media reported killed a young girl and a man with a mental disability in Batangas province, south of the capital Manila.

In the original photo, the lawmakers are shown holding placards seeking justice for the victims.

The original placards read: "DEFEND SOUTHERN TAGALOG!"; "JUSTICE FOR KYLLENE CASAO!" and "JUSTICE FOR MAXIMO DIGNO!"

Below are screenshot comparisons of the doctored photo in one of the false posts (left) and the original photo (right):