PNP to Facebook users: We're watching you

Kim Arveen Patria
Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

Is this the first case of online censorship using the cybercrime law?

The Philippine National Police late Monday warned Facebook users that posting negative comments on its page may subject individuals to criminal investigations.

"Foul words against our police officers can be use (sic) as evidence now to file a case against you in a court of law," a PNP comment said in a Facebook thread.

It cited as an example a user's comment which accused English-speaking police officers of being more adept at extortion.

"Watchout the CIDG Anti-Transnational Crime is now conducting background investigation against you (sic)," the PNP said.

It further noted that the PNP Anti-Transnational Crime and Cybercrime Division "can detect the location of the owner of a Facebook account."

In a statement, however, the PNP denied "any official connection" to the message on the Facebook account.

It noted that official statements are posted only through the PNP website, on Facebook under the account name pnp.pio, or released individually to the media.

"We shall have this incident investigated ASAP. You will be updated on the developments," the PNP said.

The thread has been taken down from the page, but not before netizens took a screen shot of the messages.

The group Filipino Freethinkers, for instance, posted in their blog a photo of PNP comments which it claimed to be "incriminating."

"The Cybercrime law hadn't even taken effect, but that didn’t stop the PNP from abusing it," the group said in its blog post.

The Cybercrime Prevention Law will be implemented stating Oct. 3.

Although it admitted that the probe on the Facebook user identified by the PNP "may or may not be true," the group said the threat serves its purpose of prodding self-censorship.

"[S]ome who read PNP’s comment are now thinking twice about speaking their mind," the group said.

"And when anyone is afraid of exercising their right to freedom of speech, something is definitely wrong," it added.

The issue comes amid a spate of hacking attacks that crippled government websites early Monday to protest the new law.

At least six petitions against the anti-cybercrime law have also been filed before the Supreme Court.