MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has urged Filipinos to always fight for and seek the truth as the government made a unified stand against the scourge of divisive false narratives and fake news.
Marcos led the signing Monday of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on its Media and Information Literacy (MIL) campaign with Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, officials of other government agencies and representatives of major social media platforms.
Aside from PCO, the campaign's lead agency, the MIL drive will involve the Departments of Education (DepEd), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
The private sector participants include Meta (Facebook, Instagram and Threads), Google, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter).
Marcos said the MIL program is about fighting for the truth.
"When we signed the MIL campaign, what I wrote is fight for the truth. What we are fighting for is the truth because the very first casualty of all of these sometimes sinister, sometimes mistaken or misguided activities is the truth," Marcos said in his speech at Hilton Manila in Pasay City.
The President said the government should equip the public with the knowledge and tools to combat misinformation and disinformation.
The MIL program will also be brought to the communities.
"It's time that we give our kids, not only our kids but our citizenry, the tools for them to be able to tell what is important, what is not, what is relevant, where the sources of this information come from," Marcos added.
"Let us recognize that there is good information and there's bad information and it's up to us to make sure...we have to find a way to make sure that whatever the inputs our people are getting, they have the capability, they have the ability to discern between truth, speculation, propaganda, and outright lies and that is the job that we are starting here today," Marcos said.
Information is "available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. But that information is pure and raw, unedited, uncurated and unexamined. That is why they say the internet is a great equalizer. It is called the great equalizer because anyone can be part of that digital world," said Marcos.
Under the agreement, the PCO shall engage and involve the public and media in enriching the quality of public discourse in matters of governance, and to craft, formulate, develop, enhance and coordinate the messaging system of the Executive Branch and the Office of the President.
Garafil said the MIL project aims to educate the public on how to discern truth from disinformation. In particular, the project targets the youth since they are most vulnerable and exposed to the digital landscape.
She added that the government is not merely embarking on a mission but is also empowering a collective endeavor that exemplifies a whole of nation approach and a whole of society commitment.
“Sa panahon po natin ngayon, napakadali na po ang pagkuha ng impormasyon gamit ang mga bagong teknolohiya, online news at social media. Ngunit kasabay din nito ang mabilis na pagkalat ng maling impormasyon (During these times it is very easy to obtain information using new technology, online news and social media. However, alongside this is the ease of securing false information). False narratives and fake news have the power to mislead, divide and even cause harm or damage,” Garafil said.
The DepEd will oversee the crafting of the nationwide survey’s framework and questions, recommend participants of the focus group discussions among MIL practitioners, partake in the development of an educator’s and learner’s MIL manual and incorporate the crafted manual through the MIL project in the country’s basic educational curriculum.
The CHED will perform the same tasks as DepEd, alongside its other mandate of fostering coordination and collaboration with state universities and colleges; while the DSWD shall incorporate the MIL project in its social protection programs, provide support to the conduct of training related to the project in targeted communities and assist in disseminating MIL information materials.
The DILG will coordinate with local government units’ on-the-ground activities that advance the goals of the MIL project, in coordination with the Sangguniang Kabataan of each local government unit and National Youth Commission.
DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. noted that cybercrimes using fake news are on the rise with the poor sector usually on the receiving end of disinformation.
DSWD Undersecretary Eduardo Punay, meanwhile, said he had witnessed how the poor and vulnerable sector fell prey to fake news.
Last January, hundreds of senior citizens flocked to DSWD offices for a supposed payout of a social pension grant that was not scheduled, he recalled.
“This showed how misinformation could impact on the psyche of our poor beneficiaries, how it gave them false hope and caused frustration, not to mention the disruption in our day-to-day services and the amount of grievances we received in the department. Sadly, such incidents happened several times over the past year,” Punay said. (PNA)