‘Duterte govt is the main source of fake news’ – journalists

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Photo by Louise Cleindale L. Penera

SOME government offices have become the chief engines of disinformation in the country, a Thomasian journalist said.

“It’s problematic to have a Chief Executive himself leading the unethical practice of saying things that are not true—not factual,” GMA Network producer and Faculty of Arts and Letters lecturer Joseph Alwyn Alburo said in the forum “Away with Trolls!” last Feb. 23 at the CME Auditorium

Alburo said the media’s debunking of President Duterte’s sweeping pronouncements on multiple occasions was enough evidence of Duterte tolerating fake news.

“How many times has he uttered a lot of pronouncements that, when checked as to accuracy and facts, were all not true?” he asked students in the event organized by the Political Science Forum.

Duterte, on many occasions, had insisted that there were four million drug addicts in the country. The Dangerous Drugs Board, however, estimated the number of drug users at just 1.8 million.

Last year, Duterte also accused the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency of plotting to oust and assassinate him, which the US embassy denied.

John Nery, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and editor, said it was alarming that the President could use false information to discredit opposition politicians without public backlash, despite being debunked by the media.

“The machinery of disinformation has a hands-on leader and that is President Duterte himself. He is a primary source of disinformation,” Nery said.

Last year, President Duterte accused Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of having multiple offshore bank accounts that allegedly contained millions. After Trillanes proved the claim false, Duterte admitted that the accusations were a “product” of his mind.

“It is equally alarming that several cabinet offices such as the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General have been acting as “machineries of disinformation” and have been allowed to spread false information for the past year,” he added.

‘PCOO gave trolls a bridge’

Nery said Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar and Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson contributed in “bridging” the social media army of “Duterte bloggers” toward attacking mainstream media.

“[Andanar] plays a role in mainstreaming the disinformation work of Mocha Uson and Rj Nieto and Sass Sasot. That is why the work of these, the generals of the Duterte social media army, is able to reach an even larger audience,” he said.

Alburo said Facebook has been weaponized by the Palace communications office to amplify propaganda and “trolling” in social media.

“[They are] not just weaponizing propaganda but [they are] weaponizing disinformation and that is even worse.”

Alburo said journalists and social media users should engage in the fight against disinformation through fact-checking and research.

During the Oct. 17 Senate hearing on fake news, Sen. Paolo Beningno “Bam” Aquino released a list of 87 websites, 95 Facebook pages and 56 YouTube channels, carrying the President’s name and spreading false content.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have previously tagged 98 websites as sources of fake news. Some of these websites have multiple domains. with L.C.L. Penera

 

To investigate and expose unspoken issues and anomalies, send confidential news tips to the Special Reports team of the Varsitarian at specialreports.varsitarian@gmail.com or at THE VARSITARIAN office, Rm. 105, Tan Yan Kee Student Center, University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila.

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