PCOO to hold 'media literacy program' against fake news

MANILA, Philippines – Amid allegations that it spreads wrong information, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said it will conduct a media literacy program in the provinces to combat fake news.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar mentioned the program on Wednesday, September 20, during a Senate hearing on the proposed P1.35-billion budget of the PCOO for 2018.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito asked Andanar about the steps his office is taking to address the issue on the spread of fake information.

Andanar said the PCOO supports Senator Joel Villanueva's bill against fake news and plans to conduct media literacy training in the grassroots.

"As far as legislation is concerned, we support the move of Senator Joel Villanueva to hear this issue about fake news," Andanar said during the hearing.

"As far as PCOO is concerned, we're already drafting an activity that will [fight] fake news through a media literacy program that we are going to be bringing to the grassroots level," he added.

Andanar said he has requested an additional P245 million for the PCOO, part of which would be spent for the training.

"We have already asked [for] an amended, proposed P245-million additional budget for PCOO. This will include activities on fake news that we will bring to the entire country, countryside," Andanar said.

The PCOO previously tried to address the issue by holding events such as the Real Numbers forum. (READ: Blogger-propagandists, the new crisis managers)

Aside from training, Andanar said his office, as chair of the information committee of the 50th year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, held a forum with its ASEAN counterparts "on delivering the right information to the public."

He said they shared "best practices" on addressing the issue, as all ASEAN member-states face the same problem.

"A couple of weeks back, we initiated ... a roundtable discussion on fake news and delivering the right information to the public. So we gathered the information ministers of ASEAN countries in Quezon City and we all talked about, we all suggested best practices that we have to the members of the delegation," Andanar said.

No fake news in PCOO

The office has been repeatedly caught spreading wrong information, with dancer turned Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson accused of propagating fake news online. (READ: Andanar hides from media after new PCOO blunders)

But Andanar denied that the PCOO is responsible for fake news, pointing out that other news agencies under him have no issues.

"If we watch PTV4, the audience will know there is no fake news on PTV4. You will not hear fake news on Radyo Pilipinas. If you happen to talk to Philippine Information Agency staff in the provinces, which by the way are in charge on the ground for development communication, you will not hear any fake news," Andanar claimed.

The same, however, cannot be said about Uson and the Philippine News Agency (PNA). The PNA was caught using a Wikimedia Commons photo of the Vietnam War in its article about the Marawi crisis. It also used the logo of the Dole company in its article on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Uson, for her part, has been caught posting false information on her social media accounts. (READ: How Facebook algorithms impact democracy– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com