MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday welcomed an investigation being sought by several senators into troll farms, saying those who spread misinformation have serious “life and death” consequences on people and the country’s democracy.
Twelve senators have filed a resolution seeking to investigate reports that public funding was used to operate troll farms, rather than use it for other pressing issues during the pandemic.
“Ano ba ang epekto ng pagkakaroon ng mga ito? Pinapag-away - away ang mga tao. Ever since naman, may mga opposition, pero di ganito ka-grabe ang pag-aaway,” Robredo said in her weekly radio show.
(What is its effect? It causes divisiveness. Ever since, there has been an opposition, but the fighting was not this intense.)
“Mula 2016, magkontra ka sa administrasyon, isa-swarm ka ng mga trolls. Ang karapatan mong pumuna ay nawawala kasi natatakot ang mga tao.”
(Since 2016, if you oppose the administration, you will be swarmed by trolls. Your right to criticize is taken away because people are scared.)
A victim of online trolling since she took office, Robredo said the investigation is “never too late.”
“Dangerous talaga siya, matter of life and death.. 'Pag hinayaan mo ang mga trolls, ang daming hindi makakapagpaabot ng hinaing," she said.
(It's dangerous, it's a matter of life and death... If you let trolls get away with it, many will be unable to complain.)
“Kasi kung hindi mahinto, ito na ang kalakaran. Naging mas delikado pa ito during the pandemic. Naalala mo, March 2020, nagsasabi na tayo na kailangan mag-border control na, mga flights galing ng China, kasi nakakatakot na. Yung pumupuna noon, pinuputakti. So yung boses na magpe-pressure sa gobyerno kung ano ang dapat gawin, nalulusaw.”
(If it isn't stopped, it will be the norm. It became even more dangerous during the pandemic. If you remember in March 2020, we've called for border control against flights from China. Those who criticized it then were swarmed. So voices who pressure government on what to do were overpowered.)
According to Senate Resolution 768 filed last week to seek the probe, "Filipinos should know why government spends public funds on troll farm operators disguised as 'public relations practitioners' and 'social media consultants' who sow fake news rather than on COVID-19 assistance, health care, food security, jobs protection, education, among others.”
The resolution was signed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva.
In June, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that a government undersecretary had been reportedly organizing internet troll farms "to target political rivals or those not aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte's administration." The Palace denied the allegation.