As I predicted in January this year, Fake News has now become a major problem in the Philippines!
Although it was already in existence for some time, Fake News became a major theme during and after the US Election of 2016. I thought that it would start proliferating in the Philippines just as it had in the USA, and I can tell you, it has become a major problem here too! I think it is more or less a worldwide thing now, in fact.
Fake news in the Philippines has tended, so far, to focus on several different topics. Probably the earliest and most prolific topic for fake news has been in relation to travel for Filipinos. I will expand on that below. Philippine Politics is always a hotly argued issue here in the Philippines, and just like in the USA, Philippine Politics has been a very major area of fake news. Recently, even the Catholic Church has been involved in the war against fake news, much to my bewilderment. Fake news is a hot topic here now, let me give you a few examples.
Travel by Filipinos
Filipinos like to travel abroad. However, most western countries are strict on issuing visas to Filipino tourists. The reason is that in the past, a lot of Filipinos have gotten visas and then did not return to the Philippines. Instead, they stayed illegally in the country they were visiting. This has made it very hard for other Filipinos to travel to, say, the United States and other countries too. Because so many did not follow the rules, the countries have made it harder for other Filipinos to get a visa.
This year, there has been a lot of fake news about some countries changing the status of people from the Philippines, saying that certain countries are now allowing Filipinos to visit without any visa at all. Recently, there was an article, which was all over Facebook, stating that US President Trump signed an executive order giving Filipinos the right to visit the United States with no visa. The same type of story has circulated in regards to traveling to Australia.
The fake story about President Trump allowing visa free travel to the United States was so widely believed by Filipinos that the US Embassy had to issue a statement that the story was not true. In fact, a lot of Americans even wrote to me asking if it was true, or in some cases “letting me know” about the “new” policy. Well, friends, I can assure you, within our lifetime, the US will never allow visa free travel for Filipinos, it just is not going to happen.
The Australian Embassy also had to follow a similar procedure as the US did, issuing a denial of any visa free travel for Filipinos. I am not Aussie, so I don’t know the laws here, but I feel confident that we won’t be seeing visa free travel to Australia for Filipinos any time soon.
The Catholic Church?
I really don’t understand why they would get involved, but recently the CBCP (Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines) has issued a statement about Fake News, and also issued a list of websites that are purveyors of Fake News. Like I say, I really don’t know why they felt this was an issue for the Church, but I suppose they are free to address any issue that they feel is relevant to the Church.
This statement has been rather controversial in the Philippines, as others have also said that it is really not a matter for the Church.
Fake News? We’ve got it here too, believe me!