If it is on the internet then it must be true, and you can’t question it.
— Abraham Lincoln
AMONG Christians, sharing fake news online could be considered a sin that needs absolution, but the gravity of the offense diminishes if netizens are not aware that they are inadvertently sharing lies.
However, they would still be guilty of the sin of omission if they fail to check the credibility of the information in a post as well as its source before sharing it.
Independent congressional candidate Rose Nono-Lin has shared her experience in this score and she laments how her political rivals in Quezon City’s Fifth District have stooped so low that they have accused her of ‘vote buying’ even if the truth is that her initiative to grant scholarships to deserving students was born out of her desire to help the underprivileged.
Two scholars of theology have sounded a warning against how many politicians are now using ‘black propaganda’ as a means to destroy their opponents and in effect gain support and the votes they are desirous of in the upcoming polls on May 9.
The truth is that in this year’s elections, fake news has become prevalent as the ‘weapon of choice’ among candidates who have unsound political platforms and dubious traits that picture their unsavory character as leaders. Moreover, they are using propaganda to tarnish their foes because they themselves do not have the moral ascendancy to lead.
And businesswoman Rose Nono-Lin is very much aware of this as her rivals try to demolish her name by alleging that her scholarship grants are suspiciously her way to buy votes from her future constituency and win as QC’s District V representative in the Lower House.
Concern about the prevalence of fake news has grown, especially now that the campaign is nearing its end and soon the Filipino electorate will troop to the polling precincts to cast their votes. The seriousness of the issue, though, has prompted several groups, foremost among them the parent company of the social media platform Facebook, or Meta, to remove accounts that spread misleading content.
According to Father Angelo Paolo Asprer of the Society of St. Paul, “conscious or deliberate spreading or promoting of fake news violates the eighth commandment (that says) ‘Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor’.”
The Pauline priest, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and a master’s degree in theological studies from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), explains that every lie is an offense against justice and charity and “sows seeds of division in the human community of God.”
Fr. JayAr Babor of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, a professor of moral theology at ADMU’s Loyola School of Theology, supports Asprer’s view, stressing that in forwarding fake news, the act is not only harmful to others but is also considered as deception.
Manila mayoral candidate Alex Lopez is also the target of black propaganda. In the latest round of falsehoods thrown against him to destroy his candidacy, the camp of his rival—incumbent vice mayor Dra. Maria Sheilah Lacuna-Pangan—has accused his father of instigating the sale of the Divisoria Public Market.
The Lacuna camp claims that it was the father of the younger Lopez who actually instigated the sale of the Divisoria Market, although the deal was done during the term of incumbent Manila mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso.
Reacting to propaganda against his father over alleged ‘political gains’ in the low rentals being paid by tenants and vendors in public markets, Lopez asked his rivals to refrain from disrespecting those who served the city in order to gain media mileage and promote their candidacy.
In an interview, he enthused that it is unbecoming for any Filipino to lambast someone who is unable to reply to criticism thrown against him. The issue of low rentals against the late mayor was triggered by the controversial sale of the Divisoria Market that of late earned the ire of vendors plying their trade in the said area.
The mayoral bet, who is running under the wing of the UniTeam led by former Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. (BBM), said he was dismayed by the allegations against his father whilst admitting that he did not expect his political opponents would stoop so low by disrespecting the dead and departed just to tarnish his candidacy and at the same time gain whatever support they can from Manila voters.
And we mustn’t forget that even before the campaign period for the upcoming polls, BBM had been the target of black propaganda, as seen in the various allegations thrown against him, including his alleged failure to pay real estate taxes.
To the accusation, the UniTeam’s standard-bearer replied by claiming “there’s a lot of fake news involved” by using his family’s alleged unpaid estate taxes.
Marcos Jr. pointed out that “the so-called facts that they call (concerning unpaid taxes) are not facts at all (because) they are just presumptions.”
To all these, Fr. Asprer says: “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 (directed against God or life with full knowledge or consent), but it can be a venial sin that disrupts the relationship with God.”
The Catholic Church encourages the faithful to seek absolution before accepting the body of Christ during communion. A priest grants absolution when a person receives the sacrament of penance during confession.
Frs. Asprer and Babor warn that netizens who use cartoon characters, logos, and such as avatars in their social media profiles to protect their identities cannot use anonymity as a defense: “Once the intent to spread fake news to destroy another person’s reputation is established, it no longer matters whether a person uses a real photo or a cartoon character as an avatar.”
“The use of a different image to conceal one’s identity indicates by itself that the person is evading responsibility, which is immoral, and therefore, sinful. Also, netizens spreading fake news cannot defend their actions by invoking the fact that other people, like family members or friends, are doing the same.”
“Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Consensus or collective tolerance in the family or society doesn’t make spreading fake news right.”
In ending, we empathize with candidates Nono-Lin, Lopez, and Marcos Jr. because they are victims of enemies who accuse them wrongfully of being ‘sinners and saints’.
FOR your comments or suggestions, complaints or requests, just send a message through my email email@example.com or text me at cellphone numbers 09054292382 for Globe subscribers and 09391252568 for Smart. Thank you and Mabuhay!