Protecting the choice of the Filipino | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

Protecting the choice of the Filipino

With the rise of social media, disinformation through fake news has become a plague to society.

Disinformation through fake news destroys facts on which we rely to make informed decisions. By destroying the foundations of our decisions, we hurt ourselves and gravely undermine our efforts to build a better country to enable us to pursue truth, justice, democracy, and the rule of law. It is, therefore, imperative that we make a strong collective effort to put a stop to disinformation through fake news, which are corroding the pillars of our nation.

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Once institutionalized and spread on a large scale, disinformation through fake news will bring a catastrophe to our country, as our national decisions will be based on lies. Fellow Filipinos will be prejudiced by misguided decisions brought on by disinformation.

Already, disinformation has brought our nation on the brink of a catastrophe. After their disgraceful exit in 1986, the Marcos family, through their candidate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., is dangerously poised to assume the presidency by spreading the lie that the Marcos dictatorship was a “golden era” in Philippine history. This shamelessly contradicts well-settled court rulings, based on judicially considered evidence, which effectively proved that the Marcoses embezzled considerable wealth from the Filipino people.

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Would it not be to our eternal shame as a people, once admired by the world for our bravery in peacefully ousting a dictator in 1986, were we to elect his unrepentant son, who continues to enjoy a lavish lifestyle riddled with vices funded by our money?

Even before the younger Marcos’ vice presidential run in 2016, the Marcoses, through their ill-gotten wealth, have consistently spent considerable sums of money on influencers, fake news peddlers, troll farms, and online platforms to paint a rosy picture of their candidate and to retrofit the tarnished image of the Marcos family.

By means of disinformation through fake news spread by them, the Marcoses have managed to hijack the minds of vulnerable Filipinos and exploit the weak educational system of our country, which is unable to instill a strong historical awareness among many of our countrymen.

Even President Duterte, whose daughter is Bongbong Marcos’ running mate, cannot understand why some Filipinos would vote for the younger Marcos. In a televised address in November 2021, Mr. Duterte alluded to Marcos Jr. as a “weak leader,” a cocaine user, and a spoiled rich kid with no achievement to show and only basks in the shadow of his dictator-father.

Why the support for him, President Duterte asked. “What contribution has he made para sa Pilipinas?… Ano ang ginawa n’yan? Nagdo-droga ’yan ng cocaine” (What contribution has he made for the Philippines? What has he done? He uses cocaine).

Much of the answer to Mr. Duterte’s question lies in the efficacy of the Marcoses’ use of disinformation through fake news, to the prejudice of the Filipino people.

The upcoming May 9 elections will be a critical juncture in Philippine history that will determine whether or not the Marcoses would be restored to power. Filipinos are faced with a momentous choice: to elect leaders with the discipline and integrity to genuinely help our country, or to elect one who represents the sins of the past, a convicted tax evader who claims as his inheritance the family’s stupendous wealth stolen from the Filipino people.

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We believe it is our sacred duty to vote wisely because our country’s future is at stake. The future of our children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors is at stake. In addition, for this May 2022 elections, we must do what we can to combat disinformation through fake news which maliciously distorts the Filipino people’s choice of leaders.

In the long run, we should set up effective institutions that will combat, penalize, and eradicate disinformation through fake news. The decision-making process of the Filipino people is a sacred and critical part of democracy. Disinformation through fake news undermines that democratic decision-making process, thereby preventing Filipinos from making better choices for their own welfare.

It is, therefore, imperative that we protect how Filipinos decide because our collective decisions will determine the future of our country.

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Amb. Albert Del Rosario is chair of Stratbase ADR Institute, and was former foreign secretary and ambassador to the US. This commentary served as the opening remarks in the online forum, “Curbing the Pandemic of Disinformation: What Really Happened During Martial Law.”

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, Bongbong Marcos, disinformation
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