EDITORIAL - Siren songs

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Siren songs

For Filipinos dismayed by politics, the message of Pope Francis had a familiar ring: democracy is deteriorating, he warned, as discontented people are lured by the “siren songs” of populist politicians with “an obsessive quest for popularity, in a thirst for visibility, in a flurry of unrealistic promises...”

The pontiff aired the warning in a visit over the weekend to Athens. The Greek capital is seen as the birthplace of democracy. Pope Francis took the visit as an opportunity to express concern about the “retreat from democracy” that he is seeing in many countries.

While the pontiff did not identify any country, he called for a return to politics that works for the common good rather than instills fear. He also expressed hope that the strengthening of democracy “may be the response to the siren songs of authoritarianism.” Populism’s “easy answers appear attractive,” he warned.

The pontiff’s message bears repeating as populist “siren songs” abound in the Philippines in this election season. While spreading Pope Francis’ message about the need to strengthen democracy and fight authoritarianism, various groups should also intensify efforts to promote voter education and fight fake news and other forms of disinformation.

Yesterday, business groups came out with a joint statement calling on politicians and their supporters not to spread disinformation and hate speech on social media and other platforms. The abuses, the groups pointed out, include lies, personal attacks, trolling, misogyny and red-tagging. The consequent damage could be “long-lasting,” the groups warned.

In placing advertisements and other product engagements, the business groups urged their members to consider which platforms are actively addressing disinformation and hate speech.

“Finally, we call on our countrymen and women to evaluate political players as well as these media and communications platforms on these same terms, and use their votes and clicks to promote truth and civility in the coming elections,” the groups added.

The May 2022 vote might yet see democracy being strengthened in the country.

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