Media News Analysis Religion

Beware of false prophets

Beware of CBCP false prophets and Archbishop Socrates Villegas
CBCP president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Four months after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) posted its list of “fake news sites” on the Episcopal Commission Laity website, online Philippine news site, Rappler, decided that this item was so newsworthy it should be resurrected – so newsworthy, in fact, that it ran the bishops’ black list twice in the same article.

The bishops will no doubt regard Rappler doing their bidding as a real service to the Church; the episcopal hierarchy will be pleased that they can use a mainstream news source to get their message out. And dutifully, Rappler did just that. Luckily, the bishops have ‘an inside man’ at Rappler – “multimedia reporter” and former sacristan and catechist, Paterno Esmaquel II, under whose byline this rehash appeared.

So, no questions asked; no attempt to verify the veracity of the claims – a simple cut-and-paste job. Anyway, it came with the bishops’ blessing; it was Church-approved; Church-sanctioned. It must be right. Right? Wrong.

The Volatilian™ is not a fake news site. It might be outspoken on certain issues – the machinations of the Philippine bishops among them. It exercises its right under press freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of expression to support many of the policies of the current president of the Philippines. But none of that constitutes fakery. Opinions expressed are our opinions and we stand by them.

We don’t report false, unsubstantiated unsourced figures, for example – like the 9,000 plus that have been allegedly killed in the War on Drugs. We question such figures as any news organisation with integrity should. If we don’t there’s no end to that madness and it will drive journalism – true journalism – out of existence. It’s already doing a pretty good job.

We don’t do the bidding of any government or organisation. We are in no-one’s pay. In short, we tell it like we see it and if that upsets the Philippine bishops or even a news organisation working on their behalf, then that, we believe, says far more about them than it does about us.

Any way, let the bishops show us the false news they say we’re guilty of. Let them put up or shut up. We responded to the CBCP’s spurious claims back in February – and we repost that response here: When “fake” isn’t genuine. In that we mentioned a number of articles we’ve posted concerning the behaviour of the Church; all of which are genuine. Yet none of these have elicited a single response from any member of the Philippine clergy. Unless you call re-circulating their list to willing collaborators in the “media” a response.

We would rather let the readers be our judge than bishops and their collaborators who pursue their own agendas.

In the closing paragraph of the Rappler article Esmaquel quotes CBCP president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas (photo), who said this: “Not only does this [fake news] offend against the orientation of the human intellect to the truth. It is, more fundamentally, a sin against charity because it hinders persons from making right and sound decisions and induces them, instead, to make faulty ones!”

In light of the false claims which the CBCP has made against The Volatilian™ – and likely against others – we believe it would be prudent for Archbishop Villegas along with his co-frères to look more closely at how they practice what they preach.

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