MANILA — Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner George Erwin Garcia suggested a task force against disinformation, citing the “supposedly pre-shaded ballots and polling centers that have already allegedly tallied a 100-percent voter turn-out” over a televised public briefing April 4.

“Iyang mga ganyan pong fake news, syempre po sa mga kababayan natin na maaaring hindi gaanong nauunawaan, paniniwalaan po ‘yan. It will create or destroy the integrity of our electoral process. We will never allow that,” Garcia said.

“Ang Commission on Elections, iyong mga tao namin dito wala nang pahingahan—sisirain lang ng mga ganoong klaseng fake news. Hindi po natin papayagan. We will go after them, we will prosecute them, and we will put a stop to these illegal activities,” he added.

In a report by ABS-CBN News, Garcia explained that the mandate of the proposed task force to the en banc would be “limited to disinformation about the COMELEC and the entire electoral process.”

“Iyong fake news para sa mga kandidato, napakadami po nun, baka hindi namin kayanin na po ‘yon. Dapat talaga isang buong departamento ng pamahalaan ‘yon,” he said.

“Iyon pong fake news na tungkol sa mga kandidato, mga kandidato na po ang bahala doon kung paano nila proprotektahan ang sarili nila,” he added.

In an interview by ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo last February, Political Science Professor Aries Arugay said the COMELEC’s social media guidelines have been “ineffective to regulate platforms during the elections.”

“Eto inamin mismo ng Comelec, sa kasawiang palad, wala talagang legal framework in regulating social media. Legal framework meaning batas,” Arugay said.

“So ’yung Comelec guidelines na sinabi na noon sa amin na nag-aaral ng social media at saka impact nito sa politics ’wag umasa. At noong lumabas nga po ’yung Comelec guidelines walang ngipin.”

“’Yung mga pulitiko, sa ngayon, sa eleksyon sa ngayon, talagang hindi po natin magga-gwardiyahan ang kanilang social media activities sa kawalan po ng isang statutory or legal framework,” he added.

Arugay also noted that COMELEC’s bill to regulate social media during the elections has been ignored by successive sessions of Congress.

“Sa tingin ko, may problema doon eh. At ang ibig sabihin, karamihan sa mga tumatakbo nakikita na hindi problema ang fake news,” Arugay said.

Facebook as Pinoys’ top news source

In a report by ONE News, the Ateneo School of Government’s online survey with Singapore-based independent research firm Rakuten Insight conducted from October 27 to November 12, 2021 found that 78.8 percent of the 2,000 respondents acquire their news from their Facebook feed.

Some 66.1 percent get their news from television, 56.7 percent from YouTube, 53.3 percent from news websites, 32 percent from the radio, 30.2 percent from messaging applications, 21.7 percent from Twitter, and 17.9 percent from printed materials.

Researchers of the online survey also noted that the results “showed that two in every three respondents or about 71 percent said that they pay attention to posts about government and politics on their Facebook feed.”

“Most respondents indicated multiple sources of news and that the results do not necessarily mean that Facebook is their only source of news,” project research manager and University of the Philippines communication research professor Ma. Rosel San Pascual explained.

“Those who are not reliant on their Facebook feed for news have a greater variety of sources of news for politics, government, and governance. They are proactively seeking news, they do not just depend on random news exposure on their Facebook feed, they also encounter news from other sources. Thus, they are still informed even if they are not exposed on news from Facebook,” San Pascual added.

“Because of this, they tend to feel more confident to engage politically… versus those who only rely on incidental news exposure on Facebook.”

The study also found that “individuals who rely on random news exposure on Facebook are more cynical about politics than those who are not Facebook-reliant for news.”

It also noted that the majority of respondents, despite actively consuming news from Facebook, said they “still trust legacy or traditional media when it comes to providing accurate information about politics and political personalities.”

“Their exposure is just as good as the curated news and commentaries that they encounter in their feed. If the random news that they encounter on their Facebook feed have elements that contribute to their cynicism, high distrust in institutions, high distrust in media, it can help form opinions and develop a more cynical mindset towards government, politics, and their own role in society,” San Pascual said, citing the importance of reading the entire story of watching the full video as “it can be dangerous to just read captions as they can be sensationalized.”