Robredo deplores gov't-backed trolls

Having been a victim of internet trolls and fake news since she assumed office, Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, July 18, welcomed Senate Resolution No. 768, which seeks to look into “state-funded trolls farms“ that spread misinformation.

Vice President Leni Robredo (Federico Cruz/MANILA BULLETIN

Speaking on her weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni,” Robredo called the inquiry a long-time coming since this has been happening since 2016.

“Ako mismo biktimang biktima diyan. Iyong nakakasama ng loob nito kahit noon, maraming mga fake news bearers na konektado pa sa gobyerno. Merong mga Asec (assistant secretary), kung anu anong posisyon sa gobyerno, pero sila mismo ‘yung pinagmumulan ng fake news (I myself is a victim of that. What’s bad about this is that even before, there are many fake news peddlers who are connected with the government. There are Asecs, and other positions in government, they are the ones who start the fake news),” she said.

Though she didn’t name her, the vice president has been a victim of misinformation peddled by staunch Duterte supporter and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy deputy administrator Mocha Uson.

Robredo said there has always been animosity between past administrations and oppositions, but it was never at this level. She called the fear that internet trolls seek to spread “dangerous” and a “matter of life and death.”

READ: Senators call for inquiry on alleged use of public funds for troll armies

“Iyong karapatan mo na pumuna ay nawawala kasi natatakot ang ibang tao (Your right to criticize is being reduced because other people are scared),” she added.

The essence of a democratic country is the right of people to criticize and to air their grievances, Robredo said, but these rights are being taken away because of internet trolls.

“Kapag hinayaan mo itong mga trolls ang daming hindi makakapagpaabot ng hinaing. Ang makakapagpaabot lang iyong malalakas ang loob pero iyong ordinaryong tao parati siyang takot (When you let these trolls, many will not be able to air their grievances. Only those who have a strong will can criticize, but ordinary people will always be afraid),” she added.

The lady official mentioned that the Commission on Audit (COA) released a report that can be used as “evidence” to prove the existence of state-funded troll farms.

COA recently flagged the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO) for the “unrestricted” hiring of some 375 contractual workers that led to unnecessary expenses totaling P71 million.

READ: PCOO exec insists: 'We don't have trolls'

The Senate’s call for the probe came after Senator Panfilo Lacson, who plans to run as president, revealed that a government official set up two troll farms throughout the country to discredit critics of the administration and potential opponents in the 2022 polls.

The resolution described social media trolls as “someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking an emotional response from other users.”

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, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva.