Palace dares De Lima: Go ahead, investigate Duterte-linked, alleged gov't funded online trolls

Senator Leila De Lima and Presidential spokesman Harry Roque | Photo from Manila Bulletin

Malacanang said on Monday that detained Senator Leila De Lima may go ahead and investigate claims that public funds are being used to pay alleged  online “troll armies” to manipulate the public in the country.

“Sige po. Imbestigahan ni Senator Leila de Lima kung gusto niya. Walang pumipigil sa kanya,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press conference via PTV 4.

The detained senator earlier called for an immediate Senate probe following the reports that funds of the government are being used to pay the online trolls.

Last May 12, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 401 directing the appropriate Senate committee to investigate several studies abroad on the Duterte administration organized and operated the alleged troll armies to mislead the public.

“[There is a need] to conduct an inquiry into the reports of public funds being spent to pay and maintain online trolls to distort and manipulate online information in various social media platforms in order to influence public opinion and political outcomes,” De lima said

“It is against the interests of our country to fund online trolls who manipulate online discussions on national issues for political ends. These funds are better spent on education, alleviating poverty and improving our healthcare system,” she added.*

In an article posted by De Lima on her blog, these armies are being led by  bloggers and social media personalities that have been appointed in various government posts for their rabid support of the president. 

“With the seemingly consistent findings of various studies of state-backed ‘troll armies’ in the Philippines, it is imperative for Congress to verify the integrity of these reports and probe if any appropriated government funds are used to maintain and pay online trolls by various bloggers and social media personalities with their capacity as appointed officials in various government agencies or by the President himself under various discretionary budgets under his office,” De Lima said.

“Manipulation of public opinion through misinformation diminishes the level and quality of our national conversation and is ultimately detrimental to our democracy,” she added.

There are also claims that these online trolls are allegedly being paid by atleast PhP500 a day to operate fake social media accounts.

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