Humor plus other ways Taiwan is stopping COVID-19 and disinformation

December 11, 2020

HOW is Taiwan stopping both the pandemic of COVID-19 and of disinformation?

Using “humor over rumor” was a key strategy to the twin pandemics that is taking hold of the world, Taiwan Digital Minister Audrey Tang said in a webinar entitled “Kaya Pala” (It Can Be Done).

Marikina Congresswoman Stella Quimbo, PhilStar editor-in-chief Camille Diola, and Doctor to the Barrios of Batanes Noel Bernardo gave their own assessments of how the Philippines fared in the fight for health and truth.  

The online forum, which was hosted by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), in cooperation with the Center for Liberalism and Democracy (CLD) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), may be viewed here:

The following is a copy of CALD Chairperson Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s closing remarks.




Closing statement of Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan

At the CALD COVID Kaya Pala forum

(As delivered 11 December 2020)


Good morning everyone.

To Minister Audrey Tang, good morning. Thank you for your, I would describe, over-and-above-the-call-of-duty responses to this webinar.

During CALD’s 13th General Assembly, we tackled the safety and integrity of elections and other political processes from creeping authoritarianism and disinformation. Our keynote speaker, as mentioned earlier, was Taiwan President Tsai and she said, “Timeliness and transparency are key to effective defense against disinformation… A strong, confident democracy combined with informed citizenry is its best defense.”

Today, we learned first-hand from our esteemed guest, Taiwan Digital Minister Audrey Tang, how Taiwan was able to face both the pandemic and the infodemic by using what is called the Taiwan Model: a cooperative effort between the government and multi-sectoral groups such as the private sector, tech firms, and civil society. The strategy of fast, fair and fun is instructive in ensuring a genuine and effective all of society approach. Humor as a strong antidote against disinformation or Humor over Rumor, the appeal to rational self-interest, quite interesting and quite instructive.

Not only was its government responsive to the needs of its citizens and to the challenges brought about by digitalization, Taiwan was also able to nurture a vibrant civil society that actively engages in governance. It is a participative democracy where citizen’s participation in governance not only ends in voting during elections, but also woven in in their everyday life.  The phrase “yesterday’s interpellation is today’s innovation” resonates well, I’m sure, with Congresswoman Quimbo and myself, being legislators. And indeed, in the last several months, our interpellations in Congress have led to changes, reforms, and interventions in the executive department.

The all-of-society approach remains a challenge for many democracies: while our civil society remains vibrant, there often seems to be a disconnect between their needs and what the government offers. Restlessness and dissatisfaction stem from the government’s inability to respond and to adapt to its citizens. The Taiwan Model again has provided a roadmap as to how to actively engage citizens in policy formulation. This climate of uncertainty would be set aside precisely because of this active, strengthened engagement between government, between civil society and the citizens.

It will also be key in addressing disinformation.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, disinformation literally became a matter of life and death. Governments with authoritarian leaders — leaders who promote iron-fist policies, authoritarian measures, lies and discord — Philippines, Russia, and Brazil have fared poorly in the control of the disease while those with vibrant, democratic leaders like Taiwan, South Korea, and New Zealand have succeeded.

Taiwan’s response tells us that a government committed to fighting disinformation with the truth, can succeed by upholding both the truth and the welfare of its citizens.

Finally, in the Philippines alone, the shutdown of the biggest media network left millions vulnerable to disinformation. At a time when our people needed timely and accurate information on how to protect themselves against the virus, credible news source was instead shut down. This is a glaring disconnect and a grave threat to democracy.

Thank you, Minister Tang, for inspiring us. Thank you for providing us a somewhat light at the end of the tunnel in terms of action steps to address the pandemic and disinformation.

We have to listen. We have to be swift. We should be able to adapt. And we have to be responsive. This way, our citizens will respond to us and heed our call.

Maraming salamat. Thank you very much. Good morning to everyone. #