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Filipino Catholic groups launch bid for clean elections

Faith-based organizations come together to fight fake news in 2022 presidential polls

Filipino Catholic groups launch bid for clean elections

Protesters in Manila shout slogans accusing the government of rigging mid-term elections in this May 17, 2019 photo. A new coalition of faith-based and other Catholic organizations aims to promote clean and honest elections in next year’s presidential polls. (Photo: AFP)

Caritas Philippines launched a coalition of faith-based and other Catholic organizations on Sept. 28 to fight for clean and honest elections in next year’s polls.

The Philippines is set to elect its new president and vice president in May, with President Rodrigo Duterte running for vice president.

Called Halalang Marangal 2022 (Honorable elections 2022), the coalition said it aims to prevent election fraud, vote buying and the manipulation of public opinion through fake news.

Coalition members include groups such as the Christian Businessmen and Professionals, De La Salle Brothers Philippines, Network for Justice and Compassion and the Philippine Misereor Partnership.

In a veiled swipe at Duterte, they said the manipulation of voters through fake reports on social media is a serious threat to the polls which needs to be countered.

Duterte has been accused of using social media trolls to spread fake news to malign his opponents on the internet.

If there are attempts to malign a candidate using fake news, we will rebut such black propaganda with facts

The coalition said they intended to educate the electorate at a time when social media takes on more importance because of the pandemic.

“Although the objectives are the same and some of the names and faces have changed [compared to other coalitions], the basic difference of this coalition will be the use of media, especially social media at this time,” said Philip Juico from the Network for Justice and Compassion.

Juico said the battleground for clean elections had changed from radio and television to the internet.

“Because social media has been weaponized in the wrong way by certain parties, the coalition will be using social media in a right, virtuous and upright way,” he added.

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The coalition has formed a “truth army” composed of volunteers who will combat fake news by presenting true facts about the candidates in the 2022 polls.

“If there are attempts to malign a candidate using fake news, we will rebut such black propaganda with facts. There are no alternative facts here. Just facts,” Juico added.

Caritas Philippines chief Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo urged Catholics to join the coalition to ensure a “brighter” future for coming generations.

“We [church groups] need to share the burden of managing and administering the electoral exercise with the Commission on Elections,” Bishop Bagaforo told Catholic-run Radyo Veritas on Sept. 28.

Apathy and indifference are unforgivable and jeopardize our democracy and help perpetuate godless values

“We need to help fill gaps in the entire process, help explain how automated systems work and reinforce trust and confidence, now at an all-time low, in elections.” 

He said social media influence has become a new reality in politics today.

“Our social responsibility has extended to social media. We have this special responsibility in times of serious moral, economic, health, food security, livelihood and leadership crises,” he said.

“Apathy and indifference are unforgivable and jeopardize our democracy and help perpetuate godless values.” 

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