A Facebook message showing an inverted Philippine flag. Image Credit: Facebook

Dubai: Facebook joined the celebration of the 118th Philippine Independence Day on Sunday. But the official greeting that appeared on users’ news feeds showed a different tone — that the country “was at war”.

In a major mistake, the Facebook greeting designed to be shared with friends bore an inverted Philippine flag with the red band on top. The image came with a greeting that read: “Happy Independence Day! Here’s to all of the Philippines’ health, happiness and prosperity.”

According to Section 10 of Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, the Philippine flag can be used to show the state the country is in — whether it is at peace or in a state of war. When displayed horizontally, the blue panel should be on top to signify peaceful times. When red is on top, it signifies war.

“It is unfortunate that there seemed to be an error in the way the Philippine flag was published. Clearly, those who designed the greeting did not know the special symbolism of the elements and colours of the Philippine flag. But we cannot fault them because they might not have known it in the first place,” Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes told Gulf News.

The greeting appeared for a while but was taken down after users pointed out the mistake. 

In an e-mailed statement sent to Gulf News, a Facebook spokesperson said: “This was unintentional, and we’re sorry. We care deeply about the community in the Philippines and, in an attempt to connect people on Independence Day, we made a mistake.”

Jenny Gonzales, former head of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas and a Dubai-based educator, said: “It’s really sad to learn about this mistake. But for the next independence day, I think Facebook should check their official greetings first before they publish anything. The flag is an emblem of our national pride. I hope it won’t happen again,” Gonzales said.

The Philippine National Flag was officially unfurled during the proclamation of the country’s independence from Spain’s three-century colonial rule on June 12, 1898. The white triangle signifies equality and fraternity, the blue field stands for peace, truth and justice while the red band stands for patriotism and valour.

The sun with eight rays depicts the eight provinces that united to battle against the Spanish colonisers in 1896. The three stars stand for the main geographical areas of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.