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Presidential Comms says it’s not a fact-check body, eyes P19M for media info literacy

The Presidential Communications Office will not function as a fact-checking body even if it has proposed a P19-million Media Information Literacy (MIL) campaign for 2024, PCO officials said Tuesday.

This was in response to Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel, who asked if fact-checking is part of the MIL campaign.

“This is to complement the apprehension side of the law with the preventive side [of it]. The MIL will empower our citizens to determine...[be] informed of valid markers of legitimate information from fake news, misinformation or disinformation. We won’t publish a list of fake news, or tell people na dito lang po kayo makinig, huwag kayo makinig rito [that you should only listen to this, or you should not listen to that], because that is censorship," PCO Undersecretary Emerald Ridao told the House appropriations panel during the deliberations on PCO’s proposed P1.79-billion budget for 2024.

“That is not our aim or role. Our aim is to empower them to make the [informed] decision once they encounter the information and prevent circulation of an invalid information. We will not be engaging as a fact-checking body,” she added.

Manuel, however, said PCO should set the standard in calling out false information posted online. He also asked them to say whether some reports found online were true or false, such as claims that the Philippines has already recovered Sabah, or that the country’s debt has been wiped out due to the passage of the Maharlika Fund law.

PCO Secretary Cheloy Garafil did not directly respond but noted that such reports make PCO’s MIL project necessary.

“Those instances are the reasons why we have launched the MIL, so our fellow Filipinos won’t fall victim to fake news. We want to educate them on how to discern this kind of information,” she said.

Manuel, however, was not convinced.

“Why are we putting the burden [of discernment on the public] when we are still trying to improve the quality of our education and the capacity to determine what is the truth or otherwise? The burden should be heavier on us public officials. The PCO should set the standard, and my questions are not being answered if these are true or false,” Manuel said.

Ridao then said that the PCO cannot validate every piece of information peddled online.

“If we are going to try to validate every information, it would be an endless task given how easy it is to put a new information. That is why we are leaving this to the social media platforms in terms of policing the information [on their platform],” she argued.

But Manuel was firm that PCO’s mandate includes setting the record straight.

“This is the Presidential Communications Office. Its mandate does not only include publishing the work of the President. It should also be at the forefront of correcting the false information I mentioned,” he said.

“I am wondering where we will use the P19 million when fact-checking is not part of the standard [of the PCO]. I would suggest that we realign this budget to the Education sector, but I will submit to the decision of this body,” Manuel added. — BM, GMA Integrated News