#BawalAngFake! Tamang Impormasyon Para sa Makabuluhang Eleksyon: G-Watch’s 2022 Ako, Ikaw, Tayo May Pananagutan Awareness-Raising Campaign

Accurate, verifiable, complete and clear information is a pre-requisite of accountability. It is a potent tool for citizens to hold power to account. Even in the accountability field, there is the notion of ‘clear’ and ‘opaque’ transparency, and it is clear transparency that likely leads to ‘hard’ accountability.

But how can citizens hold government officials accountable if information is inaccurate, misleading and inaccessible? In the context of an electoral exercise, how can citizens determine who are the best candidates to vote for if there are no useful and truthful information that can inform their decisions? How can the electoral process support the deepening of democracy if candidates win based on money, patronage and lies?

A recent Pulse Asia survey says almost half of Filipinos gets their news via the internet, specifically Facebook. This is worrying especially since the Philippines is the 7th country in the world with most fake news traffic and the first in Asia, according to a study.

A study released in 2018 maps the network of disinformation in the Philippines. It “sheds light on the network of digital workers designing political disinformation campaigns, authoring fake news and fanning the flames of public discontent in the Philippines.” There is a distinct role of language and how ideas (in this case, lies) diffuse in the network for disinformation. For instance, the disinformation machinery involves people who popularize the key ideas and information strategically identified and crafted by professional public relations (PR) firms, “the architects of networked disinformation,” to push the agenda that they clients set. It is efficient and vicious, possibly crowding out all other advocacies that matter.

It is urgently critical that citizens learn to better discern which are good and credible information and which are lies and fake news. It is important for citizens to understand as well the motivation and vested interests behind fake news and disinformation. While there have been efforts to understand and fight disinformation and fake news, efforts have largely been online and at the national/ intellectual level. Concerted and integrated efforts are necessary to fight disinformation and fake news, which will have to involve a broader set of actors and actions, approaches and avenues consolidated and coordinated to achieve a more substantive impact. Involving the grassroots, ordinary citizens, civic groups and mass movements would be key to popularize the campaign and mainstream the response in the everyday politics of ordinary people.

G-Watch views the upcoming polls in 2022 as an extremely important terrain that has to be engaged, and that would complement other accountability efforts that are being undertaken before, after, beyond and in-between elections. In this light, G-Watch is undertaking a citizenship education initiative that aims to Make Elections an Accountability Platform (MEAP). The first round of MEAP focused on the conduct of citizenship education sessions and the convening of multi-stakeholder dialogues. The next round of MEAP will take on the issue of the use of information to make elections an accountability platform, underscoring the need to fight disinformation and fake news.

G-Watch’s aim in contributing to address the issue of fake news and disinformation is to highlight the critical link between information and accountability and asserting citizens right to and capacity to generate quality, useful and accurate information to hold power to account. G-Watch has been able to continue its multi-level monitoring despite threats of COVID and repressive government policies by accessing important and useful information at different levels of governance. Crucial in enabling G-Watch multi-level monitoring have been G-Watch accountability frontliners generating evidence on the ground on whether pandemic services are delivered and whether transparency, participation and accountability mechanisms are working. More and more, access to information has been challenging and ensuring credible evidence, such as monitoring results, influence policy decisions would be critical to make governance responsive and to hold power to account.

This February 2022, G-Watch’s yearly Ako, Ikaw, Tayo May Pananagutan awareness-raising campaign will take on the issue of the importance of information in making elections an accountability platform. The campaign will involve simultaneous activities involving G-Watch sites all over the country to creatively engage relevant policy actors, accountability frontliners and citizens on the message #BawalAngFake: Tamang Impormasyon para sa Makabuluhang Eleksyon.