Philippine Army released a badly manipulated photo of ‘communist rebels’

December 28, 2019 - 11:45 AM
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Soldiers holding their weapons stand on attention during the 121st anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army in Taguig City on Mar. 20, 2018. (Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)

The communications team of the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division packaged an image of supposed communist rebels who surrendered their arms as a handout photo to the news media on Friday, December 27.

The image, which was supposedly taken on December 26, shows a group of people lining up in front of a desk on top of which are a row of rifles. The photos were sent to reporters on Viber.

Photoshopped image released by the Philippine Army's 9th Division on Dec. 27, 2019.
Photoshopped image released by the Philippine Army’s 9th Division on Dec. 27, 2019.
Photoshopped image released by the Philippine Army's 9th Division on Dec. 27, 2019.
Photoshopped image released by the Philippine Army’s 9th Division on Dec. 27, 2019.

It could have been real, after all, it was a unit of the army that released it. Only it wasn’t.

The men and women, whose faces were blurred to protect their identities, however, did not have shadows and looked like they are floating, social media users observed. The rifles similarly looked like they are hovering on the table.

Journalist Nonoy Espina also observed that one of the rifles was labeled with a date “18 Jun 2019” written on masking tape, even if the event supposedly happened earlier this week.

One of the “surrenderers” even had part of his foot erased by the photo manipulator.

A Facebook user also traced the image of the group of alleged communist rebels and observed it was from an event in 2017.

Philippine Army's manipulated photo
A comment posted on a pro-Duterte administration page tracing the Philippine Army’s handout photo in December 2019 to a similar image released in 2017. (Screenshot by Interaksyon)

Despite the mishandled image manipulation, at least two media outfits subsequently released it as a news item on their social media accounts.

In a statement, Major Ricky Aguilar, spokesperson of the army’s 9th Division, admitted that it edited the image but stood by the story.

“There were indeed 306 surrenderers in Masbate where negotiations begun sometime October 2019. The actual surrender was done [on] December 26, 2019,” Aguilar claimed.

The claim, however, could be immediately verified by Interaksyon.

Aguilar also attempted to explain why his unit released a photoshopped image to the media, he said, “In our ardent desire to release timely information, we were not able to double-check the pictures we attached in our press release yesterday.”

“Our line unit’s intention is not to mislead the public, but to protect the lives of the Former Rebels (FRs) who placed themselves at risk by surrendering to the government,” Aguilar added.

The question that remains is why the army unit had to piece together different images together on Photoshop when it could simply have blurred the faces of those involved.