The Liberal Party has condemned a recent spate of fake news, describing it as a “wave of deception” riding on the popularity of social media.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, LP rebuked “social media trolls” who spread rumors backed by a photo taken at an angle making it appear that Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros were, in social media lingo, “#WHH” or walking holding hands, after visiting Senator Leila de Lima at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame on May 1.
The political party said it had observed “a second wave of deception” as old news stories were being revived in relation to Pangilinan’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) transactions with local government units.
These included an item that cited a Commission on Audit (COA) report that was released four years ago, making it appear new.
Social media users also failed to include the part of the COA report saying it was the LGUs, and not Pangilinan, that had failed the audit because they did not provide proper documentation and official receipts on livelihood projects and procurement of office equipment.
LP added that other news stories from the recent period such as those titled “Jinggoy Estrada allegedly involves Senator Pangilinan in PDAF” and “Sharon Cuneta defends Kiko Pangilinan on PDAF” had also been making the rounds of social media, making it seem as though the issues were new.
The political party believed the fake news was being propagated to discredit those opposed to the government’s proposal to get alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles as a state witness. Pangilinan was among those who had questioned this move.
“We recognize this pattern of putting those with opposing views on the defensive, by initially having social media trolls spread half-truths so that these fake news items will be picked up by traditional media, whose output have ironically been called fake by these same trolls, so that they become ‘legitimate news’,” LP said.
As early as October last year, the camps of Hontiveros, Vice President Leni Robredo, and Senator Bam Aquino had already denounced the spread of false information involving them on social media.
Vice presidential spokesperson Georgina Hernandez had shared a collage of hoax posts featuring a photo of Robredo with then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Ecuador, where the Vice President had led the Philippine delegation at the Habitat 3 Conference.
The collage featured a post accusing Robredo of meeting Ban to spread “disinformation and lies” about President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, and of plotting to unseat him.
“We are disturbed that the Vice-President’s official and work-related activities are maliciously spun to reflect political agenda and self-interest,” Hernandez wrote.
Hontiveros, for her part, gave a simple piece of advice for social media users so they could verify the information they received: “Mag-Google lang, bes (Google it, friend!)”.
This was in reaction to links that falsely accused her of proposing a bill that would increase the “salary” of “employed” rallyers and protesters.
Meanwhile, Aquino’s Facebook page shared a post alleging that he had organized paid LP supporters to rally before the “U.N.” Embassy, which then led to a violent dispersal by the police. The lawmaker’s page labeled it “fake news” with the caption, “Nakakalungkot pong isipin na ilang araw pa lang simula noong pinag-usapan namin ang ‘trolls’ sa Senate hearing, dinumog na kami agad ng trolls at fake news. Mag-ingat po tayo sa maling impormasyon (It is sad to think that just a few days after we began talking about trolls at a Senate hearing, we were immediately bombarded by trolls and fake news. Let us beware of false information)!”
“Let us all be smart consumers of information,” LP said in conclusion. “News is new, not old. News is complete, not piecemeal. News is what you witness, not just what you quote.”