Sunday, August 25, 2019

Editorial: Democracy watchdogs

DIGITAL VIGILANCE. After voting, protect the sanctity of the ballot by reporting online false claims, fake news and election irregularities to election watchdogs, news media and civil society initiatives monitoring the elections, such as (File Foto)

TODAY, cast your vote. And ensure that all votes are duly counted.

Every election, the mechanism for every citizen to participate on equal footing with other citizens in the selection of public servants, hinges on a level playing field. Candidates vary in abilities and resources but for the people’s will to be honored, citizens share the stake of ensuring a fair and honest elections.

People’s participation in today’s democratic exercise lies not just in voting but also safeguarding the process of voting and tallying the votes.

In his Jan. 28, 2019 pastoral letter, “Seek the Common Good,” Archbishop of Davao Romulo G. Valles observed that through the new media, citizens can participate in the elections, permitting suppressed truths and views to filter into the national conversation while ensuring “great respect for others and with the end of advancing the truth”.

Youths, the digital natives adept in traversing the social media channels, must tap their digital literacy to enable democratic processes. Important information to be widely circulated include verifying one’s voting precinct using the “precinct finder” link in the official website of the Commission on Elections ( to lessen the confusion and congestion at the voting centers.

University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu professor Jason Baguia is among the Facebook members using their timelines to “educate voters for the May 13 elections,” as Baguia exhorted online. Baguia reposted infographics guiding the electorate on understanding the work and demands of senatorial candidates and other essential backgrounder for assessing and selecting candidates, which were created and posted online by the Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the UP Cebu Mass Communication students, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) Philippines (which replaces the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as the Comelec’s citizen arm in auditing the 2019 elections) and other Netizens and civil society groups stepping forward to make the digital sphere a portal for informed and critical preparations for voting.

UP Diliman professor Maria Diosa Labiste messaged students, colleagues and her personal network about the live fact-checking that will conduct today. Academic and media partners are collaborating on this fact-checking project to “counter disinformation and provide the public with veritifed information” for the 2019 midterm elections.

Citizens detecting false claims, fake news and disinformation circulating today must drop a line, “stating the claim, source of the claim and the debunking” evidence, messaged Labiste.

Guided by the Code of Principles of the International Fact-checking Network, which emphasizes “fairness and nonpartisanship, transparency of sources, funding and methodology and openness to corrections,” the project verifies claims that concern the platforms and campaign promises of candidates, election-related statements made by candidates, government agencies and other entities and election-related posts on social media and other digital platforms.

“Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw (the liar is brother to the thief),” observed Archbishop of Lingayen, Dagupan Socrates B. Villegas in his Apr. 28 Divine Mercy Sunday pastoral letter entitled “Don’t leave God when you vote.”

Pointing out that “the power to vote must be based on truth,” Villegas highlighted the need for citizens’ vigilance in detecting fake news and exposing lying candidates. “Fake news is the mother of corruption,” he said. “Lying candidates should receive no vote” as they will be “the future corrupt officials”.

For today’s elections to matter and improve the life of all Filipinos, especially those who are disadvantaged and marginalized, every citizen must share the stake of upholding and protecting democracy today.


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