A soldier patrols the empty street following the lockdown imposed in Manila, April 24, 2020. Photo courtesy of Eloisa Lopez. Manila Bulletin.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has prompted its uniformed personnel, civilian employees, and dependents to behave in social media, especially when it comes to expressing opinions or other posts that would put the military or any of its units in a “bad light.”

AFP Chief of Staff General Felimon Santos Jr. cited a 2016 social media policy calling “for proper etiquette and a high standard of conduct and behavior in any online interaction or activity.”

“While posting personal opinion is not strictly prohibited, all personnel must ensure that their posts are not misconstrued as official releases, statements, or position of the AFP,” said Capt. Jonathan Zata, chief military information officer.

Improper behavior includes statements posted or shared online that violate existing laws, rules, and regulations, and information that harms or puts other people in embarrassing, inconvenient, and/or humiliating positions.

“We try to be as proactive as we can, especially now that most Filipinos have ample time to be in front of the computers. This being recognized as the new normal,” Zata added.

The directive came after a viral letter of Santos to the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines asking for boxes of medicine for COVID-19, which claimed to be helpful to recover from the disease but is not available in the Philippines.

The letter leaked on social media, gaining criticism. The request for assistance was personal but used the letterhead of the office of the Chief Of Staff of the AFP. It also violated the rules of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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