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De Lima: Fake news part of 'poison' from Duterte administration

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima accused the Duterte administration and its supporters of spreading fake news to deliberately mislead the public, likening fake news to a "virus" that could "bring about a zombie apocalypse."

In a privilege speech at the Senate on Tuesday, January 24, De Lima warned that fake news spread by so-called trolls may seem laughable at first, but has serious consequences.

"Fake news articles these days are, in fact, deliberately being manufactured, delivered, and spread around in ways that disguise their fakeness, with the clear intent to fool people...People get paid to troll and to spread discord," she said.

"People's morals are degraded by fake news, some of which thrive on plain salaciousness o kabastusan at kalaswaan (or rudeness and obscenity). Nothing is off limits," De Lima continued. "People die from false information... Nations are weakened by false information. External forces gain footing in domestic affairs through false information."

The senator also alleged that the spread of fake news is even more "sinister" as it is connected to other attempts to "subvert the rule of law" and to trample on people's rights.

These other attempts, according to De Lima, include:

"We only need to ask cui prodest? Whom does it profit? Sino ang nakikinabang sa mga kasinungalingang ito (Who benefits from these lies)? For he who derives advantage from these fake news is the one most likely to be actively working towards its proliferation," De Lima said.

"Fake news, the outrageous, the half-truths, the outright lies, the misleading headlines, and even the crass jokes and the profanity that accompany the President's every appearance on our television screens – these are all nothing but the sticks that make up the broom that this administration and its supporters use to sweep under the rug their crimes [and] their incompetencies."

De Lima agreed with her fellow senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Pangilinan that the Senate should investigate the spread of fake news and find ways to prevent it, especially now that lies easily become viral, and "having the most 'likes'" is "more important than being truthful."

"Ika nga, ang katotohanan at demokrasya ay parang pag-ibig (As they say, truth and democracy are like love), you don't know what a great thing you have until you lose it," added the senator.

De Lima herself has been targeted by fake news stories, some of which she enumerated in her speech on Tuesday – such as reports that falsely claimed she had resigned as senator, that she would be the next United Nations chief, and that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II welcomed De Lima's ouster as chairperson of the Senate justice committee.

Ultimately, De Lima said, it is public officials' duty to ensure that Filipinos have a strong foundation in critical thinking.

"Some of us may be well-versed about the nuances and differences between 'fake news', 'satire', 'fiction', or 'yet unverified information', but not everyone is," she noted.

At the same time, De Lima appealed to the public not to believe everything they read.

"Our present leaders have already given lawless elements the guns, the license, the impunity, and the opportunity to butcher us. Let us not make it easy for them to kill us by willingly and submissively swallowing the poison they feed us." – Rappler.com