Nobel Peace Prize winner to expose disinformation infrastructure in Senate hearing: Pangilinan

January 9, 2022

MARIA RESSA, the first Filipino to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, will attend Wednesday’s (January 12) Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on disinformation, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Sunday. 

The hearing is the result of Proposed Senate Resolution 953 directing the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes to conduct a review, in aid of legislation, of the country’s existing criminal laws to consider the rise of social media platforms and the rapid advancement of technology. 

Ressa was invited to the two previous hearings in December but was in Oslo at the time to receive her award. She is expected to discuss the disinformation infrastructure at the hearing. 

Other confirmed attendees include representatives of:

* giant online sellers and advertisers Shopee (Jem Hans-Segovia) and Lazada (Neil Trinidad) to answer questions on allowing fake news to be advertised on their social media assets;

* global conglomerates Google (Yves Gonzales and Jean-Jacques Sahel) and Facebook, now known as Meta (Roy Tan and Robert Abrams) to discuss how their platforms are fundamentally changing to reduce, if not eliminate, the massive disinformation going on online; 

* local advertising groups Ads Standards Council (Atty. Rudolph Steve Jularbar), which is the regulatory body of the advertising industry in the country; Philippine Association of National Advertisers (its 2022 president Maye Yao Co-Say and its 2021 president Marvin Tiu Lim), which is a group of companies that advertise; 4As (Anna Chua Norbert and Atty. Augusto Bundang), which is comprised of advertising agencies; Media Specialists Association of the Philippines (Jam de Guzman), which is involved in branding, marketing, and advertising; 

* government agencies Department of Justice (Atty. Antoni Pauline Pascual) and Presidential Communications Operations Office (Atty. Joseph Adrian Llames), and 

* private corporation Rockwell (Atty. Ma Fe  Carolyn Pinoy and Samantha Joyce Castillo). 

Some invitations are pending: broadcast journalist Joseph Morong, social media expert and public relations practitioner Nic Gabunada, columnist and convernor of Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation John Nery, and Publicis Group’s Raymond Arrastia. 

Apart from PSR 953, on July 12, 2021, 12 senators filed PSR 768 seeking a Senate inquiry into reports that public funds were being spent on troll farms that spread disinformation, misinformation, and fake news in social media sites.

Pangilinan, who heads the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, notes that good quality information is the foundation of democracy. 

“Pinalakas lalo ng pandemic ang infodemic dahil mas marami na ang nakaasa sa online. Tunay na parang virus ang fake news. Nakakahawa, mabilis kumalat, at nakakasama. Kung mali ang impormasyon ang laganap, mali rin ang magiging desisyon ng mamamayan – ito man ay tungkol sa lunas sa sakit, sa gutom o sa palpak na pamumuno,” Pangilinan said.