Speech by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the Ceremonial Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Launching of the Media and Information Literacy Project

Event Ceremonial Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Launching of the Media and Information Literacy Project
Location Grand Ballroom, Hilton Hotel in Pasay City

Thank you very much to the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, Secretary Benhur Abalos. [Please take your seats.]

The Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil; and our CHED Chairman, Chairman Popoy De Vera; the Department of Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Ed Punay, ngayon lang kita nakitang na nakabarong dahil nagkikita kami pagka bagyo at saka ‘pag may lindol, at saka –medyo disente tayo ngayon [laughter]; all my fellow workers in government; my partners in the private sector; all important private sector partners especially for this very, very important subject matter that we are trying to address today; other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon to you all.

I am of course very happy to join the guests from the government and the private sector to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between key government agencies and the launching of the Media and Information (MIL) Project.

In this day and age, the world has grown very much smaller because of technological advancements that hasten our integration into a single, cohesive digital society.

The digital world is both borderless and also limitless,
and everyone can now claim to be a netizen, with just a few clicks of a mouse or a few touches on mobile devices, and we have joined the rest of the world when it comes to cyberspace.

Back in the day, there was a time a long time ago, some of the kids don’t even remember this time that we had to actually go out and engage with actual people, actual human beings to, again, to engage in the exchange of information, in the exchange of – and to have a line of communication. But now, we reach out to millions of people in the comfort of our homes, in our schools, in our workspaces, and through, of course, all the digital platforms that we have available to us today.

News and information reach was, of course, delivered through what we now call the traditional media, newspapers, radio, television.

Now, the multitude of information is available to anyone, anywhere, any time. But that is information, pure and raw, and unedited, and uncurated, and unexamined information it is put out there.

And that is why they say the Internet is a great equalizer. Because the traditional media, for example, if you read an article that you’re interested in or that you would like to comment on, that you would like to respond to, you write a letter. And you say, “Dear Editor, I’m in full agreement with the Op-Ed column that was written by your columnist last Thursday about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And that is the only way that you can communicate.

Now, it is purely interactive. While the guy’s doing his vlog, you can be telling him, “Nah, that’s not true. This is a completely different – we have a completely different experience. What you are saying might apply in your area, but it doesn’t apply now.”

And this is why he is still – this he or she still in the middle of their vlog, is still in the middle of their post. And so, that is how quickly now that interaction. That’s why as I said, it is called the great equalizer and because anyone can be part of that digital world.

But therein comes also the problem. When you talk to, for example, political commentators and say you have been working for The New York Times for the last 35 years in the Middle East, or you have been working for Financial Times in Hong Kong for the last 35 years. And now, we get our opinions not from that fellow who has been working in one place for 35 years but we don’t know where it’s coming from anymore. We’re not sure where it’s coming from because anyone can go on the Internet and spread their opinion. And everyone is entitled, of course, of their own opinion but everyone also has a prerogative of being wrong. So that is where the problem – that’s where the problem arises.

Because there used to be a joke and we would say “it must be true I read it in the paper.” And people would say, “don’t believe everything that you read on the paper.” We also hear the same thing now. “It’s on the Internet, it must be true.”

And there again that we see – that we are not sure when we talk to that reporter or the commentator or the author who has been working at a certain thing for his entire life, their entire lives. And now, they have somebody who is a 14-year-old who is just having fun and doesn’t really know much about what they are talking about come on the Internet and say… And this is regarded with equal credibility. Because it’s very hard for us to know because it’s also new. It’s very hard for us to know exactly. So you go back. You do a little research. You find out who is this person.

One of the best examples of this happening was during pandemic. You would look – these people would say, this is thing that you can do, what they are saying be pro-vax, anti-vax, do wear your mask, don’t wear a mask, it’s a political statement. We were all confused.

And there was very little that you could do to find out, except to find out who these people were. And as a funny example, a friend of mine sent me, you should read – during the lockdown – “you should read this, this guy makes a lot of sense.” That…

Medyo may pagka outrageous ‘yung kanyang mga advice. So binasa ko and I said, “Well, the only best way to do this is to find out who is this guy.” Baka naman Mayo Clinic ‘di ba? Baka naman nasa Stanford Center ng research. So I watched, I looked, and it was a pathologist. And I told my friend and I said, “Why are you listening to a pathologist? If they make a mistake, it doesn’t matter, their patients are already dead. So we should not be listening to these people.”

And that’s what we are attempting to do here. What we are attempting to do here is specifically as Secretary Cheloy mentioned, we also direct our attention to young people because they are the most involved. They are the ones who consider being online, working on the Internet as part of their life. It’s like breathing to young people.

But we must give them the tools to be able to look and see what are these things that we are reading. Totoo ba ito? Should we really be doing something about it? Should I worry or should I just not worry whenever – because this is what people are telling me?

And then it goes into every part of our lives. It becomes dangerous – it became dangerous during the pandemic because people were giving us some very outrageous advice and this was hurting other people. But then it is now extended now into the – it has become such an important tool in the political realm.

And we all hear about fake news. We all hear that the entire campaign – I’ve heard this in reference to somebody I know – that their entire campaign was based on fake news. Everything that they said on the Internet was fake news.

Well, maybe it’s time that we give our kids, not only our kids but our citizenry, the tools to be able for them to tell what is important, what is not, what is relevant, where the sources of these information come from.

We have all heard the phrase, “know your source.” So that is perhaps the first step that we can do for our people and to say know your source. Tingnan niyo kung saan galing. Kung ano ‘yung kuwento na ‘yan. Baka nag-inuman lang ‘yang mga ‘yan tapos kung ano-ano ang naisip, sinulat sa Internet. Naniwala naman tayo. ‘Di ba? Kailangan ay bantayan natin ‘yun.

If you will notice when we signed the poster on the Media and Information Literacy Campaign, what I wrote there is “Fight for the truth.” And this is all that we are talking about and this is as much as we are talking about. They cannot…What we are fighting for is the truth because what is – the very first casualty of all of this… Sometimes sinister, sometimes just mistaken, misguided activities, the first victim, the first casualty is the truth.

And we must allow everyone to be able to discern for themselves. We will help them. But people have to learn to be able to discern for themselves what is real and what is not, what is propaganda, what is fact, what is data, and what is speculation.

These are all the things that we would like for people to learn and it is something that we have to learn. This is all very new.

My sons laughed at me when I say, “Do you know that there was a time when there were no telephones and there were no computers?” “Yeah, dad, sure.” They just cannot imagine that such a world existed.

But the younger generations here will remember that. But now this is the world that we face. I did not grow up with it. I grew up with it – I learned about computers and the digital world, cyberspace in school. But kids – 3-year-old, I saw a 3-year-old sinking his toy to his control box. “So what you doing?” “Oh, I’m sinking it.” Sinking, 3-year-old kid.

And that – but that’s how involved we are, that’s how embedded, how large a part all of this plays into our lives. We used to call it the information technology. Well, let us recognize now there is good information and there is bad information. It is up to us to make sure that…

We cannot stop it. We cannot, we cannot… I don’t think that there has ever been – any country no matter how much they wanted to to try and stop the Internet or to try and block or to try and cancel websites. They do for a little while pero lilitaw din ‘yan. We always somehow find a way in.

So, we have to find the way to make sure that whatever the inputs are people are getting, they have the capability, they have the ability to discern between truth, speculation, propaganda, and outright lies.

And that is the job that we are starting here today. And we need everyone to be involved, we need – we have to…

You know with the advent of AI, we can see that the tools that are available are becoming more and more powerful. And we are all very grateful when there are machines that do a little bit of thinking for us. But it’s also rather disconcerting when we are confronted by pure AI.

Hindi na tao ‘yung kausap mo. Kung ano-ano na lang ang puwedeng sabihin. And that is something that we have to learn how to deal with.

And that is why what we are doing here today starting this campaign is very, very important. And that is why I thank you all for being involved in this.

It is immediate, it is urgent. And although I think that if we put our minds to it, there is a way to allow our people to be able to discern from truth and everything else.

Thank you and good afternoon. [applause]

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