VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Photos of activists ALTERED, post not a call vs communists, community pantries

An April 25 post carrying digitally edited photos of three youth activists holding slogans supporting the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is false.

Its caption claimed they are students of the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) who support the NTF-ELCAC because they do not want fellow students to die for joining the New People’s Army. This is the opposite of what the youth in the photos are actually campaigning for: to defund NTF-ELCAC, stop red-tagging of community pantry organizers, and provide financial aid to the poor.

The original images came from an April 23 Facebook (FB) album of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, where youth activists carried white bond paper with slogans that read: “DEFUND NTF-ELCAC! DEFEND COMMUNITY PANTRIES!.”

In an April 23 tweet, Kabataan spokesperson Raoul Manuel, one of the persons targeted in the altered graphics, condemned the fake photos and asked help to mass-report the FB pages and accounts propagating these.

He described the incident as a propaganda tactic of the state that aimed to “spread fake photos of mine and other youth leaders to make it appear that we support its attacks vs community pantries and dissenters.”

The slogan carried by a female activist, which originally bore the text “AYUDA, HINDI RED-TAGGING! (Aid, not red-tagging!),” was replaced by the same message in the other frame but written in Filipino.

The other slogan that originally said “10,000 AYUDA, IBIGAY NA! (10,000 [worth of] aid, give now!)” was replaced by the phrase “WE SUPPORT NTF-ELCAC”. The logos of militant organizations were not erased, to make it look like they support this statement.

The spurious post, which got 164 reactions, 43 comments, and 900 shares emerged a week after the NTF-ELCAC shared on April 19 a Facebook (FB) post claiming that community pantries were being used to recruit people into “communist” groups.

FB page Mulong Manunulat, self-labeled as a comedian but mostly posts anti-communist and red-tagging content, uploaded an early version of the manipulated photos on April 23. The post has since been taken down.

Data from CrowdTangle, a public insights tool owned and operated by Facebook, shows that the manipulated photos were reshared and got a lot of interactions in FB groups SARA DUTERTE for President Movement, Mike Defensor for Senator, and Support Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)