Filipinos are highly intelligent people who would not fall for everything they see or read on social media, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque asserted the Filipinos' keen sense of discernment on information online in trying to dispel Vice President Leni Robredo’s concerns about possible interference of China in the country's affairs through social media.
"Sa akin po, wala (For me, there's none). I have been a strong adherent for freedom of expression and the free market place of ideas," Duterte said during a televised press briefing, when asked if the nation should be alarmed by China's potential influence on the country polls.
"At ang Pilipino naman po, napakatalino na natin, hindi po lahat ng nababasa sa Facebook ay pinaniniwalaan (And Filipinos are very intelligent. We don't believe everyone we read on Facebook)," he said.
Robredo had earlier questioned China's alleged involvement in the country's domestic affairs after Facebook shut down several China-based social media pages for coordinated inauthentic behavior. Some of the accounts reportedly featured targeted content supportive of President Duterte and his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte's potential presidential run in the 2022 elections.
Robredo raised concerns about China's apparent interest in the country's affairs, particularly the upcoming elections, saying such situation is alarming since it involves the country's sovereignty.
"Anong ginagawa ng China sa domestic affairs natin? Ito, kailangan tayo dito matakot. Kasi bakit? Ano ang interes ninyo sa eleksyon? (What is China doing in our domestic affairs? This should frighten us. Why? What is their interest in our elections?)" she said in a radio interview over the weekend.
At the start of his term, President Duterte has chosen to forge closer economic and security ties with China despite the unresolved dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte recently raised the country's legal victory against China in the South China Sea dispute during his first-ever address to the United Nations General Assembly. Some groups have praised Duterte for affirming the arbitral award before the UN but others were skeptical if he will actually walk the talk.