MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The plague of trolls is finally dawning on the Philippines' Catholic bishops.
At the Walk for Life on Saturday, February 18, the 61-year-old Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo reminded Catholics to beat the trolls.
Pabillo said: "Hindi tayo matatalo ng mga trolls kung lahat tayo nagsasalita. Magsalita kayo sa Facebook 'nyo – mga picture 'nyo, 'yung paninindigan sa buhay. Ituloy 'nyo."
(The trolls cannot defeat us if all of us speak. Speak out on your Facebook accounts – with your pictures, your beliefs in life. Continue these.)
"Ipadala ninyo sa Facebook 'yung nangyari ngayon (Send to Facebook the things that happened today)," Pabillo said, referring to the Walk for Life, a grand Catholic procession against extrajudicial killings and the proposed revival of the death penalty, among other things.
During the same event, Bishop Valentin Dimoc of Bontoc-Lagawe added in a speech, "When we are bullied because of trolls in cyberspace, let us continue to use Facebook responsibly, make our presence felt, and bear witness to our faith."
The Walk for Life drew at least 10,000 Catholics, according to the police, making it one of the biggest Catholic rallies in recent years. (READ: Cardinal Tagle urges 'active non-violence' amid killings)
"Ikalat natin sa Facebook (Let us spread this on Facebook)," the bishop added at the event. "Let us bring the good news about the Walk for Life."
At the same time, Pabillo reminded his flock of things that can be done offline – such as to pick up their trash after the event, and to lobby in Congress against the death penalty.
A month earlier, another bishop also lashed out at trolls and fake news.
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said in a homily to close the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy: "Fake news and trolls are not mercy. They are lies."
In the Philippines, fake news and trolls have proliferated especially before, during, and after the 2016 elections, and also in the face of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs that has already killed at least 7,080 people.
Fake news and trolls have often pitted supporters and critics of Duterte against each other, with online propaganda associated with both the administration and the opposition. (READ: Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media) – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.