Dummy FB accounts of students, alumni alarm UP, Cebu City mayor

THE University of the Philippines’ (UP) System Data Protection Office has reached out to the Philippine National Privacy Commission to help their students and alumni report duplicate Facebook (FB) accounts using their names.

Several dummy accounts of active FB users, many of them reportedly vocal against the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, surfaced on the social networking platform on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella also urged the anti-cybercrime unit of the Philippine National Police to investigate.

“This is a very serious matter,” he said.

Police Regional Office 7 Director Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro already ordered Col. Marlo Castillo, chief of the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit (Racu) 7, to look into the matter.

He said private individuals who were victimized by fake and empty Facebook accounts can coordinate and report to the Racu 7.

Castillo said they must receive a complaint so they will have legal basis to take down fake accounts or conduct an online investigation.

He said they cannot start an inquiry based on stories reported by the media.

“We are inviting them to surface and proceed to our office and we will advise them on what to do,” Castillo said in a mix of Tagalog and English.

He said the Racu 7 can be reached through email racu7acg@gmail.com or through its cell number 0998-598-8105.

The Racu 7 office is in the compound of the Camp Arcadio Maxilom, the headquarters of the Cebu Police Provincial Office, in Sitio Sudlon, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.

UP advisory

In an advisory issued on Sunday, June 7, the UP Office of the Student Regent said the UP System has received reports of “fake or dummy” FB accounts created for their students and alumni. It urged the UP community to check their FB accounts and to report the matter to the data protection officer of FB.

“Following protests in UP campuses and threats to our students, there are now multiple reports of empty, duplicate and fake accounts bearing the names of UP students. We express our utmost alarm since these accounts are suspected to cause harm or spread false information. It would be best if we all stay informed and vigilant,” read a portion of the post of the UP Office of the Student Regent on its official FB account on Sunday.

It further said, “As much as we want to shut down true duplicate accounts, please do exercise restraint against reporting possible real-life accounts of people having the same name as ours.”

UP said they are hoping that what had happened was only a glitch in the system of FB that can be resolved as soon as possible.

However, the UP Cebu students, teachers and alumni were not the only targets of the creators of fake accounts.

Non-UP alumni who were vocal against the controversial bill also discovered that they have dummy accounts. Others found out that the dummy accounts had them signing the anti-terror bill petition online even though they did not support it.

Jen, not her real name, is one of the many victims of the dummy accounts.

“I found out through a post from Tug-Ani, UP Cebu’s publication. Then various friends posted that they searched for their names and found out they had dummy accounts,” she said.

Friends later messaged her about the dummy account bearing her name, she said.

“I need to hide my identity for fear of it being used to spread fake information. I’ve always had the fear of being blamed for something I did not do. This fear was quickly becoming a reality,” she said.

The dummy accounts have no posts yet since these were immediately reported.

FB privacy, safety features

According to the Privacy and Safety features of FB, accounts for impersonation may be reported by going to the profile of the impersonating account. Click a circular button with three dots inside under the account’s cover photo and select Find Support or Report Profile. Select “Pretending to be Someone” under the list and specify who the account is pretending to be.

In a separate development, the donation drive for the bail fund of the seven activists and one bystander (called the “Cebu 8”) arrested in the vicinity of the UP Cebu campus in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City during a rally on June 5 was temporarily suspended.

The legal team of Cebu 8 said the monetary support they received in just two days was “overwhelming.”

King Perez, media liaison of Cebu 8’s legal team, said the bail amount for the detainees is yet to be determined by the investigating prosecutor. This will be stated in the information to be filed in court.

He said initial charges by the police included violations of Section 13 of Batas Pambansa 880, which prohibits the holding of public assembly without a written permit, Section 9 (e) of Republic Act 11332 and Simple Disobedience under Paragraph 2 of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code.

“Other than posting bail, expenses such as court fees, transportation, food, processing and other necessary expenses shall be addressed until the resolution of the cases,” read a portion of the legal team’s press statement on Sunday.

Arrested on June 5 were Jaime Paglinawan of Bayan Central Visayas; Joahanna Veloso, 22, associate vice president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines; Bern Canedo, 21, vice president of UP Cebu’s student council; Dyan Gumabao of Kabataan Party-List; Nar Porlas of AnakBayan UP Cebu; Janry Ubal, 29, of Food Not Bombs Cebu; Ai Ingking, 26, of the UP Alumnos; and 19-year-old bystander Clement Ventic Corominos.

Police said the eight violated general community quarantine guidelines. (WBS, JOB, RDR)