Philippines to Investigate US Anti-Vaccine Propaganda Campaign

The Pentagon-run operation was reportedly intended to misinform people about China’s Covid vaccine

Philippine lawmakers are planning to investigate a covert propaganda campaign by the US military that aimed to undermine the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine during the height of the pandemic, according to Reuters, citing documents.

The Philippines, heavily impacted by the coronavirus in the region, struggled to convince its population to get vaccinated.

The investigation follows accusations of a Pentagon-led operation to discredit the Chinese vaccine Sinovac between spring 2020 and mid-2021. Reuters reported earlier this month, citing former US military officials, that the campaign targeted the Philippines before expanding to other Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

The campaign allegedly employed fake social media accounts impersonating locals to criticize Sinovac and spread claims about the poor quality of locally produced test kits and masks.

Documents viewed by the news agency reveal that Philippine Senator Imee Marcos, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, and House Representative France Castro submitted resolutions to the Philippine Congress earlier this week to initiate an investigation into these allegations.

According to the resolution from Marcos obtained by Reuters, the Senate inquiry aims to determine “the ramifications of the actions of the US Military, any potential breach of international law” by Washington, as well as “the possible legal recourse” available to the country, considering that misinformation campaigns like this “[threaten] national security.” The documents claim that “underhanded tactics by a foreign military power” undermined “national sovereignty and the democratic rights of Filipinos to freely access truthful information vital to public health and safety.”

Reuters quoted a senior US Defense Department official as confirming that the US military was involved in a covert propaganda campaign to smear Chinese vaccines in developing countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Pentagon spokeswoman told the media that US defense forces deploy “a variety of platforms, including social media, to counter those malign influence attacks aimed at the US, allies, and partners.” The spokeswoman went on to claim that Beijing conducted a “disinformation campaign to falsely blame the United States for the spread of Covid-19.”