THE current COVID-19 pandemic has elicited many ideas on how to conduct our daily lives, especially because we do not have much choice but to follow government protocols involving the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed on Luzon since March 17.
If this pandemic happened in the 1970s or 80s the government would not have much problem with information dissemination, for we had newspapers, radio and TV, both pro-administration and against it, that can be relied upon at least to tell the truth about an epidemic.
The big problem today is the Internet which ordinary people use to communicate their thoughts, in the realm of what they call “social media.” Unlike the mainstream media that are steeped in traditions of correctness, fairness and responsibility, those who call themselves social media influencers are bereft of all responsibility, good taste and often, truth.
The Executive Branch, with its network of law enforcement agencies, seems helpless in fighting these fake news purveyors who saw the big opportunity of riding on the fear and threat of the spreading coronavirus to sway netizens’ thoughts to their side. Worse, they do not have qualms about using government name, logos and representations in touting their ideas or opinions and labeling these as official announcements to waylay the unsuspecting public.
The government itself is remiss in handling the information side of the COVID-19 public health emergency. It has found out, albeit a little late, that the Department of Health’s three websites and the Presidential Communications Office’s “Laging Handa” website, not to mention the numerous websites of local government units, all contribute to the cyberspace din and chaos – and on official level at that.
In its recent report to Congress on the implementation of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Law, the Executive Department said the government will create a “unified COVID-19 website” so that Filipinos, who incidentally had to stay at home during the lockdown, will be able to use a one-stop-shop source of information on the pandemic, skipping all the other online sources, especially those with toxic narratives and messages.
The unified COVID-19 website, according to President Duterte in his report to Congress, will contain all details about the government’s response to various concerns, such as health, food production, social assistance, mobility and transport, business and labor sectors, and security matters.
This single website on the government’s response to the pandemic will go a long way in defeating the modern information scourge called “fake news.”