#FactsFirstPH: Ilonggos join in fight for facts

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Around 300 students, media practitioners, representatives from government agencies, and members of the academe are joining the movement to build communities of action in the fight for facts.

The #FactsFirstPH initiative launched its series of provincial roadshows at the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas Iloilo City campus on Friday, October 6.

The Iloilo roadshow, the first stop of the series this year, is conducted in collaboration with UP Visayas, UP Visayas Division of Humanities, iWrite, and Daily Guardian.

It is worth noting that Daily Guardian is one of the 100 organizations in the country that established #FactsFirstPH. The initiative is a whole-of-nation approach to combat disinformation and aims to foster a healthy information ecosystem that prioritizes facts and encourages nuanced discussions on pressing public matters.

“We are starting with the areas where there’s already seeds,” Rappler lead researcher on disinformation and platforms Gemma Mendoza told Daily Guardian when asked why the first stop is Iloilo.

She also underscored the importance of shifting from the two-year online seminars and conferences in fact-checking to building relationships in a face-to-face setup.

“It is important that we build relationships by interacting with local communities, not just broadcasting. I think that’s very critical to solving the current problems,” she said.

Mendoza added that they are aiming to create an Iloilo-based #FactsFirstPH organization.

“It’s up to the people in Iloilo, but what we were hoping for… Essentially, what #FactsFirstPH is trying to do is to establish a distribution network and a support system for facts-based journalism,” she said.

Mendoza stressed that in the battle for facts and bringing up conversations around issues, journalists and newsrooms need the support of the communities.

“We will have the backing of the community; that’s what #FactsFirstPH is trying to do. As you have seen, Rappler, for instance, has always said that we wouldn’t have survived all the attacks if it weren’t for the communities who supported us through that difficult time,” she shared.

“When you start speaking truth to power kasi, definitely may magagalit sayo. It takes courage to speak truth to power,” she added, emphasizing that the courage can stem from the support of the communities.

Chancellor Clement Camposano, who just won his second term, said UP Visayas is committed to making democracy work.

“Fighting disinformation, telling the truth, speaking the truth is something we do in the university. That’s the reason why when the project was brought to us, how can the university say no to a project like this, especially at a time when there is mass disinformation and manipulation? It would be a crime of omission on the part of the university not to make that commitment,” he reiterated.

Meanwhile, Atty. May Castillo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 6 noted that not all Ilonggos know how to fact-check.

She emphasized that there is a need for the academe, government, private sector, and local communities to work together in the battle against disinformation and misinformation.

As victims of disinformation themselves, especially in time for the distribution of cash assistance, Castillo said DSWD-6 is encouraging Ilonggos to develop their fact-checking skills.

“Gina-encourage gid naton ang mga pumuluyo diri sa Iloilo nga pirme gid mag-check kung ang impormasyon nga nagalab-ot sa ila husto or indi,” she said.

It can be recalled that in July this year, an unexpected influx of clients flocked to its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) distribution center at GT Mall in Molo, Iloilo City.

“May ara sang mga programa namun nga ginapangsakyan. They would say nga may ipang provide nga assistance… pero wala man,” she explained.

The morning activities of the roadshow include a plenary talk on a legal checklist or starter kit for fact-checkers by Atty. John Molo, a UP law professor and member of the board of the Philippine Bar Association; and why local journalism matters in the digital age by Ted Aldwin Ong, vice chair of the Iloilo Media-Citizen Council.

A panel discussion on the community’s role in building a strong support and distribution system for facts and facts-based conversation around critical issues followed after the plenary talk.

In the afternoon, around 30 participants from various organizations joined an exclusive paralegal training for truth-tellers and a workshop on digital hygiene and safety training.

The 30 participants will also attend a #FactsFirstPH planning session scheduled for October 7.