Does Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo plan to form a coalition with armed communist rebels if she wins the presidency on May 9? Retired Major General Domingo Tutaan Jnr finds the claim to be laughable. “These accusations are all scurrilous,” the former spokesman for the Philippines ’ armed forces said on Saturday in an exclusive interview with This Week In Asia . “This is just a very funny thing that these claims are coming out.” Robredo has, in fact, been consulting “a group of retired generals from the armed forces and the Philippine National Police about national security and our defence posture,” said Tutaan, who once commanded an army brigade in an area of southern Mindanao where communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas were active that included Davao City. “It’s not in her platform that there will be a coalition government with [communist insurgents],” Tutaan said, calling the allegations “very malicious, very conduct unbecoming of a public official … especially when you say it using your position but you are not presenting any facts.” The rumours stem from a rally Robredo held in Cavite, south of Manila, on March 4. Some 47,000 people were at the event – more than expected – leading several local officials, who support Ferdinand Marcos Jnr becoming president, to claim without evidence that NPA rebels were among the crowd. Trolls and polls: fake news surrounds Philippines’ Robredo-Marcos showdown What gave the accusation legs was the Philippines’ own anti-communist task force, which put out a statement attributed to spokeswoman Lorraine Badoy that accused Robredo of “lying about a deal with members of the Communist Party of the Philippines” as well as the NPA and connected National Democratic Front. The state-run Philippine News Agency picked up the statement on March 14, widely reporting Badoy’s claims that “Robredo has formed a ‘tactical alliance’ with communist terrorists that is ‘mutually beneficial to the both of them’”. Calling someone a communist ally is known in the Philippines as “ red-tagging ” – a deadly form of labelling the government has used for decades to publicly accuse activists, journalists, politicians, and others of supporting the long-running insurgency . Numerous extrajudicial killings have resulted. Duterte doubled-down on the tactic after he became president in 2016, creating the anti-communist task force – composed of former military officials and officially known as the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict – that put out the statement against Robredo last month. She wants to address the root causes of communism. We don’t believe she is going to have any coalition government with them Domingo Tutaan Jnr on Leni Robredo On Tuesday, vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio – President Duterte’s daughter – made a veiled reference to Robredo’s supposed communist links by telling an audience that her running mate, Marcos Jnr, does not “make alliances with groups linked to those who want to destroy government” and “will never sleep with the enemies of the state”. Tutaan said no one he knew in the military seriously believed the current vice-president was in cahoots with communist insurgents. Robredo “has categorically denied this”, he said. “She wants to address the root causes of communism. We don’t believe she is going to have any coalition government with them.” As for whether there were any communist operatives at the March 4 rally, Tutaan said: “if they wish to campaign for or against her I cannot control them, but the thing is, the vice-president is not open to any coalition with them.” Paradoxically, it is Duterte who has historically had closer links to communists, according to Tutaan, who said the outgoing president, while mayor of Davao City, used to maintain an open line with the late NPA Commander Leoncio Pitao. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte pays tribute to slain rebel leader Leoncio "Parago" Pitao. (Obet de Castro) pic.twitter.com/D2o0yqeNSQ — Pinoy Weekly (@pinoyweekly) July 10, 2015 Duterte even mentioned forming a coalition with communists during his presidential campaign, Tutaan said, adding that no action was taken against him at the time because “we were more focused on military operations against the armed group”. “If you search social media, he has a lot of pictures raising his flag with clenched fist and the like,” Tutaan said, referring to the hand gesture commonly used, among other things, as a symbol of communism. Duterte even appointed some known communists to his cabinet upon taking office, according to Tutaan. Facebook trolls Not only has Robredo been falsely accused of trying to form an alliance with insurgents, she has also faced unsubstantiated rumours that Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison is acting as her adviser. Speaking from the Netherlands , where he lives in self-exile, the 83-year-old denied offering counsel to the Philippine vice-president. “It is not true that I advise Leni,” Sison told This Week In Asia , adding that he had struggled to put a stop to the rumours himself because “I have been kicked out of Facebook.” Data analysis commissioned by advocacy group US Filipinos For Good Governance found 737 Facebook accounts spreading misinformation linking Robredo to communists. The group, chaired by prominent Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis, asked Facebook to remove the “malicious” content, but it has yet to do so. Liz Derr, who carried out the analysis on behalf of the group and shared her findings on the website trollexposer.com, said it uncovered “136 unique pieces of content” aimed at “red-tagging” Robredo “resulting in threats and potential harm to herself, her campaign workers and volunteers, and her supporters”. Critic or communist rebel? In Duterte’s Philippines, there’s no difference “Our report documents 1,976 shares of this content,” Derr said, adding that one of the “top five primary sources” cited was the state-run Philippine News Agency, which she said posted 110 articles linking Robredo to “communist terrorists” – mostly quoting Badoy of the anti-communist task force. Badoy did not respond to a request for comment. “We have independently identified a large network of Facebook accounts that includes 737 accounts which shared disinformation and dangerous content,” Derr said, including a meme claiming that you would die if you voted for Robredo. This content was then shared to at least 1,032 other accounts, she said.