EDITORIAL: In service of the anonymous

As the university and college student council election in the University of the Philippines draws near, every Iskolar ng Bayan must live up to the challenge to be highly critical – not only of the candidates vying for different positions, but also of the information that they consume, particularly from the “media” that seem to only stir awake during the most heated season of the year.

Thriving in a community hungry for information, so-called “watchdogs” have entered the scenario to offer the latest on the candidates, whatever their color, affiliation or principles may be. Through social networking sites, these new “media” were born almost out of nowhere, promising to provide information in the name of service to the Iskolar ng Bayan.

Sprouting like mushrooms, a couple of these appeared particularly in Facebook. Most prominent perhaps is Factcheck Diliman, which according to its page, “was born out of a desire for an alternative venue” and is “committed to empowering iskolars ng bayan to be more proactive and engaged in policy-building through participation in electoral politics.”

With its juicy content, Factcheck Diliman easily became a household name within the UP community, along with its affiliates in the constituent units in Manila, Baguio and Los Baños. On surface level, it may seem to effectively imitate the organization of a media outfit. However, its biggest flaw lies in its very foundation: its anonymity that ultimately frees it from any liability.

Factcheck’s roots trace back three years ago from its already defunct Multiply account. Despite the change of platform, its mode of “service” has always been the same, releasing “exclusives” and “scoops” while shrouding itself in a veil of secrecy, like vigilantes working in the dark.

Despite its claims on non-partisanship, eyebrows cannot helped but be raised as it functions almost similarly to a tabloid newspaper delivering the latest blind item of the day.

Concealment is Factcheck’s game – and it has been playing well at it. By withholding the sources of its every information, its accuracy is put to question, along with the credibility of their sources and Factcheck itself.

Isn’t it hypocritical for an “election watchdog” to demand transparency and accountability from political candidates, when they themselves are free from any liability because of their anonymity?

Factcheck may continue claiming its “service” to the UP community, but it may as well be shot down in terms of accountability. By the non-disclosure of their names and affiliations, we are left to question their true intent in releasing information to the public.

In the account of false information or propaganda, who are we to blame? Free from responsibility, Factcheck might as well release information to deliberately slant the campaign or simply add fuels to already burning fires, if the student body is not be critical enough to discern the truth.

Factcheck Diliman has recently reached Facebook’s limit of 5, 000 friends – a wide reach that can easily make or break it for any political aspirant fielding for a position.

In its call for an issue, rather than personality-based politics, it has joined the three competing parties in its campaign. In its famed question-and-answer portion, however, it still has to truly walk the talk, as questions regarding personalities still floated, despite its supposed screening.

While the merit of Factcheck as an avenue for communication and discussion cannot be completely disregarded, its stance as a “watchdog” should also be clearly watched by the UP community.

Cloaking itself under the guise of mystery, it does not do us any service; on the contrary, merely a great disservice, as it places accuracy and accountability at stake.

Editor’s Note: This piece appeared as the editorial of TNP’s College of Mass Communication (CMC) election primer that was published on the eve of Election Day, February 27. You may read and download the primer here. 

Author: TNP

The Official Student Publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.