Events of this week have challenged our stability in more ways than one.
This week, a series of earthquakes rocked Luzon (Monday), Visayas (Tuesday) and Mindanao (Wednesday). Aftershocks and other minor temblors have ensued.
The death toll has been rising, and damage to buildings and other structures, as well as business activity lost due to suspended operations, has yet to be computed.
This week, too, began with a report that groups of journalists and lawyers are in an organized effort to “destabilize” the presidency. A so-called witness, “Bikoy,” who has linked the President’s family to the drug trade, is allegedly working with journalist Ellen Tordesillas who is in turn linked to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler, Vera Files and the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
Malacañang has confirmed the existence of the “network” as reported by another broadsheet.
When pressed for an explanation, however, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo could not give any credible answer except to refer back to the “well-explained” story that came out Monday.
As we wonder how safe we truly are with the ground under our feet, we also ponder how likely, or how credible, such reports of government destabilization are and how relevant they are to our everyday lives.
In both instances, fake news appears to be a fixture. In the aftermath of the quakes, dubious messages on SMS and social media are circulating. They talk about stronger earthquakes to come and warn people against sleeping soundly lest they let their guard down.
While it is easy for some to dismiss such hoaxes, many Filipinos, paralyzed by fear and too preoccupied with survival issues to think critically, take these messages to heart and, worse, pass them onto their own networks.
And then, while the so-called destabilization matrix appears to be an unverified smattering of lines and names, many take them for the truth. Panelo himself exhorted everyone to believe it because the source came from no less than Malacañang.
What, then, are the people to believe?
First, we must remember that nobody has ever yet predicted the occurrence of earthquakes at any given time. And while we are aware that there are several active faults in our country, and that it is a matter of when, not if, these faults would move with tremendous energy, preparations should come in the form of knowing what to do and where to go when a similar disaster occurs. We should know better than believe, and worse pass on, useless messages that only fuel fear and confusion.
As for the names on the matrix, it is good to remember that no administration can really be stable anyway—especially when it focuses on suppression, sensationalism and polarization instead of plodding tirelessly to bridge the income gap and make life better for all.