VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts red-tag ABS-CBN journo with 2013 safety training photo

Two Facebook (FB) pages red-tagged Rowena “Weng” Paraan, head of ABS-CBN’s citizen journalism arm Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo, by using a seven-year-old photo of her conducting a safety training for fellow journalists in Mindanao and falsely claiming it showed wounded communist rebels in the mountains.

The pages regularly post content against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its militant arm, the New People’s Army (NPA).

STATEMENT

On the afternoon of May 13, FB page Enlightened PINOY published a photo of Paraan with several women and one man in what looked like a forest. The man was slumped on the ground with his right arm straightened and wrapped in cloth. It was captioned:

RUN NPA RUN. MGA LARAWAN NG MGA NPA NA SUGATAN AT GINAMOT NALANG SA KAGUBATAN (Run NPA run. Photos of wounded NPA members who are being treated in the woods)!!!!!!”

Source: Enlightened PINOY, “RUN NPA RUN…,” May 13, 2020

Four hours later, the page re-uploaded the same image with two other photos of Paraan, this time explicitly mentioning her name and insinuating that she was connected to the CPP and NPA in its caption:

AAAAAY BISTADO‼️ PAKI EXPLAIN. Ano ang tunay na ugnayan ni Rowena Paraan, (NUJP) Head ng Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo, ng ABS-CBN,,, at ng CPP-NPA-NDF??? ANONG GINAGAWA NIYO SA BUNDOK?

(Exposed! Please explain. What is the real connection between Rowena Paraan (NUJP) Head of Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo of ABS-CBN and the CPP-NPA-NDF? What are you doing in the mountains)?”

Source: Enlightened PINOY, “AAAAAY BISTADO!,” May 13, 2020

Another FB page, Enlightened Youth, republished as original content Enlightened PINOY’s second post a minute later.

FACT

The photo does not show any CPP-NPA activity.

Published by Mindanews, the image was shot seven years ago by photojournalist Vic Kintanar during the first “All-Women Risk Awareness and Media Safety Training” in March 2013 conducted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) at the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental.

Paraan, then NUJP chair, led a session on first aid during the training. According to a recent article released by MindaNews, the viral photo was actually of a “simulation exercise” where participants, who were all women journalists from Mindanao, were giving first aid to a supposedly injured person -- the lone man in the image, who is also a reporter.

NUJP, in a statement issued two days after the FB posts first made rounds on social media, said the 2013 training even “included sessions facilitated by officials of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.”

Both MindaNews and NUJP condemned the “malicious” use of the 2013 photo, saying it endangered not only the life of Paraan but of all journalists seen in the photograph.

The same day Enlightened Pinoy and Enlightened YOUTH published their false posts, Paraan shared MindaNews’ 2013 article on her personal FB account, saying the circulating posts were “using the Mindanews’ photo to mislead others.”

The pages’ posts, which were the first versions to circulate on social media, have garnered over 1,500 reactions, 1,900 shares, and almost 500 comments on FB as of May 19, and collectively could have reached around 105,000 netizens. It has been reposted as a screengrab by at least one netizen.

Enlightened PINOY and Enlightened Youth were created about five months apart, the former in January 2019, and the latter the following May.

The false posts red-baiting Paraan came a few days after Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy, speaking for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), on May 10 accused the CPP of exploiting ABS-CBN’s shutdown “as an opportunity to sow chaos and division.”

NTF ELCAC’s Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. echoed Badoy’s claim two days later, saying the CPP is “freeriding” on the ABS-CBN issue. He then red-baited, among others, a number of media and student groups, calling them “creations of the CPP itself” and daring them “to expose themselves.”

ABS-CBN went off-air on May 5 after it was served a cease and desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) following the expiration of its legislative franchise expired a day prior. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: NTC backpedals on ABS-CBN franchise)

VERA Files published in 2018 a fact sheet on red-tagging, which, in the worst cases, could lead to warrantless arrests, torture, and even extrajudicial killings, according to a 2012 International Peace Observers Network study. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Why ‘red-tagging’ is dangerous)

Red-tagging, or red-baiting, is the act of harassing or persecuting a person on the basis of “known or suspected communist sympathies,” as defined by Oxford University’s Lexico.com.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, in his dissenting opinion in Zarate vs. Aquino III, said it is the act of “stereotyping or caricaturing” individuals or groups critical of the government as “masterminds” of crimes, making it easy for government agents “to silence or cause untold human rights abuses on vocal dissenters.”

Despite previously claiming he is the country’s “first left-leaning president,” President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2017 declared the CPP-NPA as a “terrorist organization.”

Under the Human Security Act of 2007, this pertains to any group of persons who commits acts of terrorism “to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

The law, however, requires a court clearance applied for by the government before an organization is officially considered “terrorist.” A petition filed by the Department of Justice in February 2018 to officially declare CPP as a terrorist group, initially dismissed in January, was revived last February by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Badoy errs in claiming NDF tagged as terror group in PH, other countries)

Once the CPP is officially labeled as a terrorist organization, suspected members of the group could be subjected to close surveillance, detention without charges, restricted liberties, and frozen assets.


Sources

Enlightened PINOY, “RUN NPA RUN…,” May 13, 2020

Enlightened PINOY, “AAAAAY BISTADO!,” May 13, 2020

Enlightened Youth, “AAAAAY BISTADO!,” May 13, 2020

MindaNews, Women journalists, media workers gather for 1st all-women safety training, March 17, 2013

MindaNews, MindaNews’ 2013 photo on media safety training maliciously used to red-tag journo in 2020, May 15, 2020

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, NUJP denounces red-tagging of ex-chair Paraan, May 15, 2020

Rowena Carranza Paraan, “O ayan.,” May 13, 2020

Philippine News Agency, Reds using ABS-CBN closure to sow divisiveness: exec, May 10, 2020

National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, “REDS freeride on ABS-CBN issue,” May 12, 2020

CNN Philippines, ABS-CBN goes off air following NTC order, May 5, 2020

BBC News, ABS-CBN: Philippines' biggest broadcaster forced off air, May 5, 2020

The New York Times, Leading Philippine Broadcaster, Target of Duterte’s Ire, Forced Off the Air, May 5, 2020

International Peace Observers Network, Red-Baiting in the Philippines, December 2012.

Lexico.com, “Red-bait,” n.d.

Supreme Court E-Library, G.R. No. 220028, Nov. 10, 2015

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during the Meeting with the Filipino Community in Singapore, The Max Pavilion and Hall 9, Dec. 16, 2016

The Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 374, Dec. 5, 2017

The Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 9372, March 6, 2007

Philippine News Agency, Court orders revival of DOJ bid to declare CPP-NPA terror group, Feb. 10, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

Duterte’s anti-communist task force intensifies red-baiting

Red-baiting of government critics has been the convenient cover-up weapon of an incompetent…

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Badoy errs in claiming NDF tagged as terror group by PH, other countries

Communications Undersecretary for New Media and External Affairs Lorraine Marie Badoy wrongly…

VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Why ‘red-tagging’ is dangerous

Red-baiting in its most extreme can lead to warrantless arrests, torture, enforced disappearances,…

About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

Contact Us

Email us at newsroom@verafiles.org

MEMBER