Political campaign? Reddit users report circulating text message about ‘Yolanda’ funds

May 5, 2021 - 4:46 PM
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A logo of Reddit on the left; A photo of Tacloban City a month after Supertyphoon Yolanda struck in November 2013 on the right

Some Filipinos in an online forum reported that they received unsolicited text messages that ask them where the projects for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) went.

They shared screenshots of these on the subreddit r/Philippines where the link in the messages directs them to a fan page of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Yolanda is considered one of the world’s strongest cyclones in terms of wind speeds at landfall recorded in history with 190 mph winds.

It made landfall on Nov. 8, 2013 and caused widespread destruction and deaths in the island of Leyte and nearby provinces.

In a Reddit post on May 4, one user shared a side-by-side screenshot of a text message with a link and the Facebook page where the link leads.

“Kahit Smart network nang sa-spam ng political messages. Na received ko unsolicited message with personal name handle…only from Smart,” the user said.

The user added in the comments section that the no phone number was indicated from the sender.

In the first screenshot, a text message from a certain TFYolanda bore the message: “Saan napunta ang mga projects ng Yolanda? Alamin ditto sa FB post.”

The other snapshot showed a video released on April 29 from Facebook page “Friends of Karlo Nograles.”

On the same day, another Reddit user also shared two screenshots where it showed the same text message from TF Yolanda and a link leading to the same Facebook video.

“Yet another propaganda by the Duterte Administration claiming that they are the ones responsible for the Yolanda rehabilitation,” the user claimed.

In the video description in question, it showed that Task Force Yolanda led by Nograles and the National Housing Authority turned over housing units to Yolanda victims.

The Task Force Yolanda or the Inter-Agency Task Force-Yolanda was created in 2017 to serve as the central coordination committee in the recovery and rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas.

“The Task Force Yolanda led by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and the NHA, have already turned over free housing units to 58,742 families from Yolanda-affected areas in Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas as of April 21, 2021,” it said.

“More to come as construction is non-stop despite the pandemic. All the Yolanda-related housing commitments of the Duterte Administration will be completed in 2022,” it added.

Last September, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a directive to extend the IATF-Yolanda’s term until the housing projects in the affected areas are completed.

The task force was supposed to cease last August 12, 2020.

In the profile of the “Friends of Karlo Nograles” Facebook page, the official website of Nograles was provided and a description that read:

“We are friends of Sec. Karlo Nograles whose lives have been changed by his genuine service to the country.”

Reddit users criticized these activities as a form of propaganda gearing up for the coming national elections despite the filing of candidacies being months away.

“Puspusan na pang-uuto kasi alam nila may kalalagyan sila pag natalo next election,” one user said.

“Wow daming budget ni Nograles,” another user wrote.

Aside from the cabinet secretary, a Reddit user also shared a screenshot of a supposed copy-paste script to promote Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

“PSA: Looks like they’re planning a new script for #2022Elections. On the off-chance you encounter such posts, report as Spam. No questions,” the user wrote.

As of writing, neither Nograles nor Marcos has issued a statement about this alleged early propaganda for the coming polls.