Recruitment of computer programmers “not for malicious purposes”

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Some netizens wonder if the Philippine military’s recruitment of IT practitioners has something to do with the proliferation of fake Facebook accounts.

MANILA, Philippines — It’s true, the Philippine military is urgently hiring computer programmers and systems developers, but that’s to boost the service’s coronavirus response operations, not for “malicious purposes.”

Army spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala told Rappler this Monday, June 8, in response to a question sent to Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay.

Following the proliferation over the weekend of fake Facebook accounts, some netizens asked Rappler if it might have something to do with the military recruiting information technology (IT) graduates.

The army announced the recruitment on its official Facebook page on May 24.

“In the case of computer programmers, their skills are needed in the administration of Army information systems such as personnel data management. Their services are needed to upgrade the internal processes of the military and should not be used for any malicious purpose under any circumstances,” Zagala said in a statement.

“It is also in line with the army’s desire to develop its cyber defense and security capability necessary for a modernizing force,” he added.

The selection process for computer programmers and systems developers is still ongoing “to ensure that deserving candidates are suitable for enlistment in military service,” Zagala said.

In addition to computer practitioners, the military also recruits licensed doctors, nurses, licensed radiological technologists, licensed medical technologists, licensed respiratory technologists, bus or truck drivers, and auto mechanics to reinforce its ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colonel added.

The military and other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are involved in several aspects of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Military doctors and nurses are stationed at major quarantine facilities in Manila and the city of Pasay to care for COVID-19 patients with relatively mild symptoms and probable cases awaiting confirmatory testing.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered military troops to escort the social welfare department to distribute emergency cash grants in remote and critical areas.

The Navy and Air Force transported Filipino returnees and shipments of medical supplies and equipment from other countries, particularly China and India.

The 3 service branches are using their trucks and buses to transport authorized workers, repatriated Filipinos and stranded people while public transport remains limited under general community quarantine.

Internet users have been alarmed since Saturday June 6 at the proliferation of fake Facebook accounts imitating real user names. The incident was first reported by students at the University of the Philippines in Cebu, after 8 people were arrested during a rally against the anti-terrorism bill on Friday, June 5.

The proposed measure gives the government broader powers to identify groups and individuals as terrorists and to make longer warrantless arrests of terrorist suspects.

Some lawmakers and netizens fear that the fake accounts could be used to file incriminating evidence against them, in light of the inclusion in the anti-terrorism bill of posting inflammatory messages as a punishable act.

The Department of National Defense, the Department of Justice and Facebook itself said they were investigating the fake accounts. – Rappler.com

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