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Computer-savvy rebels in Philippines wary of social sites

Police and military in Philippines keeping track of communist activity

Gulf News

Manila: Top communist leader A. Faye (not her real name) told her brothers and sisters not to post their reunion pictures on Facebook and Twitter after the event at a posh condominium in Global Bonifacio City.

"My partner and I are computer literate, but we are wary of social networking sites. The military and the police have been tracking many of us through the internet," Faye said.

Despite a prize on her head, she brazenly attended the wedding of her Canada-based niece who came home to suburban Quezon City to get married to her Canada-based Filipino boyfriend.

Some relatives who attended the party were also military men. "Parties and family reunions are neutral grounds for all of us," explained a first cousin who was once with the military and whose son is now in the Army in the southern Philippines.

Surprisingly, Faye has a Facebook account where her birthday was announced last December.

Blogs on various issues

At the party, her laptop showed off several glowing military operations of the communist New People's Army against the military and police in the south.

"I carry my laptop around to be connected," she explained, adding that every comrade is computer savvy with successful blogs meant to raise social and political consciousness among the young.

The 40-year-old Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the New People's Army (CPP-NPA) has a "very old" website. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has also a "mature" website.

The Communist National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA's negotiator) and the MILF have been holding on and off peace talks with the Philippine government since 1992 and 1997, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed that social networking sites have made young people less receptive to protest rallies and from being recruited to rebel movements.

"Through these sites, people catch up with current events and express their opinions and views on critical issues in a peaceful and democratic manner, rather than going out in the streets to protest or join the leftist armed rebels in the countryside," Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the military, said.

The AFP, however, embraced Facebook and Twitter only last year. "Our followers have increased," boasted Burgos, adding that security institutions have been reaching out to the young, and hopefully to the hard-core rebels.