Just as the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines began observing the solemnity of the holiest week in the liturgical calendar, social media was abuzz with a fake video apparently meant to embarrass the family of Vice President Leni Robredo and dampen her spirit as the opposition presidential candidate.
Robredo spokesperson Barry Gutierrez condemned the latest addition to the relentless online attacks against the Robredo family as a “malicious fabrication” and a “direct and vile response to the momentum” of her volunteer-backed campaign.
Robredo herself addressed the low blow by saying that the “best antidote” to vicious fake news, such as the alleged sex video, is “the truth” and exhorted Filipinos to “not lose focus” on the higher mission.
“Tuloy tuloy lang ang paggawa ng kabutihan. This was how I survived the last six years,” Robredo added.
The camp of her rival, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who leads the pre-election surveys, took exception to insinuations that it was behind the smear campaign. In a separate incident earlier this month, a food delivery rider had been arrested for making a death threat against Marcos Jr. on social media.
Indeed, the Church has become increasingly concerned about the proliferation of poisonous fake news, which promises to multiply even more as the bruising campaign for the crucial May 9 national elections enters the homestretch.
“Conscious or deliberate spreading or promoting of fake news violates the eighth commandment [that says] ‘Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbour,’” stressed Fr. Angelo Paolo Asprer of the Society of St. Paul.
Asprer added: “We are called to be truthful, responsible and accountable for our words and actions … If a person does not know that what he is posting or sharing is fake news, a person may not be committing a mortal sin [direct- ed against God or life with full knowledge or consent], but it can be a venial sin that disrupts the relationship with God.”
The challenge to rise above the deafening political noise and continue doing good is particularly relevant today, Maundy Thursday, which got its name from the Latin word “manda- tum” or command, referring specifically to Jesus Christ’s directive for his followers to “love one another as I have loved you.”
One way to demonstrate that Christian love is to refrain from patronising and then spreading damaging fake news. To do so is nothing short of a sin that requires absolution, according to theology scholars.
Allowing fake news to dominate the political discourse and brainwash the electorate increases the risk of Filipinos electing the modern-day equivalent of false prophets, or the wrong kind of leaders who will decide the nation’s and Filipinos’ fate over at least the next six years.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a March 27 pastoral letter on the 2022 elections indeed underscored the “great importance” of these elections and the Filipinos’ responsibility to elect “competent leaders and lawmakers with sincere intentions to serve the welfare of our communities” and not those who are seeking the lofty positions only to fulfil their own selfish ambitions.