Pastor opposed to EDCA and Balikatan war games falls victim to cyber-attack

This article is available in Pilipino

Karapatan-Cagayan Valley expressed alarm over the relentless cyber-attack against Rev. Allan Manuel, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), during the first week of May. Rev. Manuel reported being unable to access his Facebook, Messenger, SMS text messages, and other personal accounts. He also received a call from an unknown number that caused his cellphone to suddenly shut down.

The group believes these incidents are related to the pastor’s opposition to the 39th Balikatan war games in the country between US and Philippine troops. They suspect the US and Philippine militaries, who were conducting “capacity training” related to “cyberdefense,” of being behind the attacks.

“The use of drones and other advanced military technology bestowed to the AFP by the US military have not only been directed to Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea but is also used to electronically monitor the activities of activists and people’s organisations,” Karapatan-Cagayan Valley stated.

The group emphasized that Rev. Manuel became a target of such surveillance and violation of privacy rights due to his advocacy for human rights in Cagayan Valley. He also strongly opposed additional US military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the increasing US military presence in the region and the country. He has been subjected to Red-tagging by the National Task Force-Elcac since 2018.

In January this year, Karapatan’s national office criticized the AFP’s creation of its own “cyber security group,” which the group claims will only be used against progressive and alternative media in the country.

Progressive and alternative media such as Bulatlat and Altermidya, and Karapatan, have been targets of cyber-attacks since 2018. These attacks were characterized by Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS), where their websites were flooded with “fake traffic” to overload the system and prevent others from accessing the said sites. Studies on these cyber-attacks pointed to IP addresses assigned to the Philippine Army as the source.

Additionally, the Marcos regime arbitrarily shut down websites of organizations it accused of being linked to “communist-terrorist groups” in June 2022, including many progressive organizations and independent media outlets.

AB: Pastor opposed to EDCA and Balikatan war games falls victim to cyber-attack