'Fake news and trolls are not mercy' – Balanga bishop

MANILA, Philippines – Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos denounced fake news and online trolls on the last day of a week-long international congress on mercy hosted by the Philippines.

"Fake news and trolls are not mercy. They are lies," Santos said in a homily to close the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. (READ: Lipa archbishop: 'Christ embraces the miserable')

It was one of the rare instances when a bishop of the Catholic Church lashed out at fake news and trolls. Many other Catholic bishops, especially the oldest ones, do not have the slightest idea about social media. 

The 59-year-old Santos continued: "Bullying and Internet bashing are not mercy. They are offensive and violent. Verbal abuse and gossiping are not mercy. They are character assassination."

The bishop then reminded his flock that mercy is also about words.

He said it also involves the 8th commandment, "Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." 

Santos said: "There are words which are truthful and liberating. There are words which build up the character and improve human relationships. Those are words which renew the person and uplift our spirits." 

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 more than 6,700 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

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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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