2022 Philippine Elections

Presidential bets agree ‘all’ fake news peddlers must be punished

Loreben Tuquero
Presidential bets agree ‘all’ fake news peddlers must be punished

10 MINUS ONE. 9 candidates for the May polls square off during the first Comelec Presidential Debates at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

On the topic of fake news, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Vice President Leni Robredo mention the absent Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr., who was reported to have benefited from disinformation

MANILA, Philippines – To address the “fake news” problem in media, presidential candidates believe anyone who creates fake news and allows it to spread should be held accountable.

Presidential bets agree ‘all’ fake news peddlers must be punished

During the first Comelec-sponsored PiliPinas presidential debate on Saturday, March 19, moderator Luchi Cruz-Valdez cited a December 2021 SWS survey which showed that 69% of adult Filipinos believe the fake news problem in media is serious, and 51% of Filipinos find it difficult to spot fake news

She then asked candidates what kind of regulation they would put in place to “control the fake news syndrome” not just in the country, but also to help the world.

Senator Manny Pacquiao said those who create fake news should be punished. “Unang-una, marami pong mga impormasyon na naisaksak natin sa kokote ng mga young people ngayon na pinapaniwalaan nila, but hindi po ‘yan totoo. At pangalawa po ay nakakasira po ng buhay ’yan. Marami pong epekto, malaki po ang epekto niyang mga fake news at dapat maparasuhan ‘yung mga gumagawa ng mga fake news,” he said.

(First, there is so much information that is being injected into the minds of young people now that they believe even if it isn’t true. Second, this destroys lives. There are many effects, fake news has a big effect and those who create it should be punished.)

Faisal Mangondato countered that it’s not that simple. “Madaling magsalita ng batas pero sa ating lipunan ay nakikita natin ’yung batas natin mahinang-mahina isulong ’yung mga batas natin, na dapat ay nabigyan ng katarungan ’yung lahat ng dapat ay sila ay patungan ng parusa dahil sa kanilang mga ginagawang mali dito sa ating bansa,” he said.

(It’s easy to point to the law, but in our society, we see that its implementation is very weak, those who deserve justice should get it, they should be punished for all the wrongs they have done in our country.)

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Vice President Leni Robredo repeated their call to hold social media platforms accountable. (READ: Where do presidential aspirants stand on fighting disinformation?)

Even with no law that punishes fake news, Moreno said that existing laws should apply to everyone. In March 2020, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act had a questionable and dangerous provision that punishes individuals or groups who create or circulate false information on COVID-19. 

“Certainty of laws. There are already laws existing it has to be applicable to everyone. That includes the source of this application. We should – kailangan natin silang habulin at papanagutin bakit sila pumapayag na magkaroon ng fake accounts sa kanilang application,” he said. (We need to go after them and hold them accountable for how they allow fake accounts in their application.

In February, lawmakers approved a bill that would require social media users to register their legal identities and phone numbers when creating new accounts. This aims to counter those who make anonymous online accounts to spread hate and disinformation. 

Candidates cite Marcos 

Rehashing an earlier jab at opponent Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the only candidate who skipped the debate, Moreno said the P203 billion estate tax his family owed is not “fake news.” (READ: Isko to go after P200-B Marcos estate tax debt if elected president)

Second, Ma’am Luchi, nga pala hindi po fake news ‘yung estate tax na P203 billion. Supreme Court ruling po ’yun with finality. Thank you very much. Singilin na lang,” he said.

(The P203 billion estate tax is not fake news. That’s a Supreme Court ruling with finality. Thank you very much. Let’s just collect it.)

For all his responses on battling fake news, Moreno was joined in a rally the day prior by former government official Mocha Uson, a known disinformation peddler. 

When asked about these seemingly conflicting stances, Moreno sidestepped the question, saying Uson would be able to respond to such allegations. 

For her part, Vice President Leni Robredo cited studies saying she is the number one target of disinformation and that Marcos is the one who benefits most from disinformation. This was earlier reported by Vera Files and Rappler.  

She agreed with Moreno on the need to track down the sources of false and misleading information. 

Ako, agree ako kay Mayor Isko na kailangan hanapin natin ’yung source. Kasi halimbawa po ako, dalawa nang companies ’yung naggawa ng study na sinasabi ako ’yung number one, ako ’yung number one na tinitira ng lahat na disinformation at number one na nakikinabang sa disinformation si Mr. Marcos. Number two, kailangan ’yung social media platforms should be made accountable dahil sila ’yung nagiging bahay ng mga disinformation na ito,” she said.

(I agree with Mayor Isko in saying we need to trace the source. For example, two companies have already done studies that say I am the number one target of all disinformation, and the number one person who benefits from disinformation is Mr. Marcos. Number two, social media platforms should be made accountable because these are where disinformation thrives.)

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Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.