Perhaps the ecstacy of being ordained as Facebook’s “truth” censors left people at Rappler and Vera Files bathing so deeply in the afterflow that they slept through the carnage of a Facebook viral video carrying false claims against Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur First District Representative Rolando Andaya Jr.
As with most viral videos aimed at destroying reputations, this one did give the context of the incident and presented only the details which would compel people to react negatively towards the subject of the video.
Because, in order to truly judge the truth or falsity of a story, great care must be taken to tell the story in the right context and present the reader with all the relevant details.
In the words of the Journalist Code of Ethics by the Philippine Press Institute, journalists such as those from Rappler and Vera files must “scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis.”
In short, fact checking for Facebook demands that Rappler and Vera Files play the role of news editor to every single Filipino Facebook user. Otherwise, Facebook, Rappler, and Vera files will most certainly fail in their sworn mission to filter out false news stories.
The fuller context of the video published by Facebook page Bicol Politics showing Andaya being driven out and then shouting outside a police precinct has to do with the Naga Airport expansion project and an ongoing crusade by Congressman Andaya to ensure just compensation for the farmers that will be displaced by the infrastructure project.
According to a friend from Naga, Second District of Camarines Sur Representative Lray Villafuerte through his various agents were forcing farmers to sell them their land at P8.00 per square meter and Villafuerte in turn would sell the land to the government at P300.00 per square meter.
Before Andaya was seen shouting outside the police precinct, farmers had come to him seeking help after members of a group called Sagip Kalikasan blocked the road leading to their fields with truck loads of sand and gravel.
The farmers, upon seeing the people from Sagip Kalikasan who blocked the road to their fields, apprehended them. In retaliation, the Sagip Kalikasan people went to the police precinct where they accompanied by Congressman Villafuerte in filing a police blotter report.
My friend from Naga claims that Villafuerte’s very presence at the police precinct was an attempt to show he had control of the police in the area in order to intimidate the farmers and keep them from contesting the claims made by Sagip Kalikasan against them.
Unwilling to be cowed, the farmers sought out Congressman Andaya to help them stand up against Villafuerte’s attempt to unjustly deprive them of their land.
Andaya went to the police precinct to seek out Villafuerte and that was when a heated confrontation took place. It isn’t clear if it was the police or Villafuerte’s people that pushed Andaya out of the police precinct.
Instead of including the plight of the farmers seemingly being forced from their land, Bicol Politic’s video sought to portray Andaya running amuck without provocation. Malice seems apparent in how Bicol Politics captioned its video, where it said “Andaya violently attacks Sagip Kalikasan personnel; video captures his Satanic attitude”
In the accompanying description it said:
Rolando Andaya Jr., congressmen of the first district of Camarines Sur, harassed with utmost ferocity the personnel of Sagip Kalikasan who are guarding the area for the re-orientation and upgrading of the Naga Airport and, as can be seen in the video, pursued them in the police station, revealing his demonic attitude.
Andaya, who dubbed himself as Satan in a press conference, can be seen in the video below confronting Cong. Lray Villafuerte with eyes red, words unpolished and gestures that can be compared to a drug addict instead of an honorable lawmaker.
Cong. Vilafuerte was in the police station to give aid to the Sagip Kalikasan personnel after receiving reports of Andaya’s abuses against them.
Bicol Politic’s video was all over my newsfeed as well as on Facebook messenger and there was no mistaking that it had been heavily promoted. The video has garnered 540,000 views as of this writing.
Bicol Politic’s claim that Andaya attacked members of Sagip Kalikasan was demolished by the video of a TV News Report. In this longer video, Andaya was not seen talking to or coming into physical contact with any of the Sagip Kalikasan members and thus, on the basis of that video could not be claimed to have attacked or harassed them.
Moreover, the video shows that it was Andaya who was being restrained and pushed away by people — it is unclear whether they were police or people from Villafuerte’s side.
With the season of political campaigns coming in, there will be hundreds of such videos as well as articles surfacing almost everyday containing claims disparaging one politician or another.
Considering how Bicol Politics was able to freely propagate a distorted and untruthful version of the Andaya-Villafuerte confrontation, I think it would be prudent to assume that Rappler and Vera Files may have grossly overestimated their capability to act as fact checkers.