Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is heading the opinion polls ahead of the May 9 elections. Election observers have linked this success to a long-standing disinformation strategy. For the past six years, the Marcos family has systematically invested into spreading fake news throughout a broad media network, aiming to distort and revise historical facts related to the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s. A twisted rewriting of history should influence the electorate in order to increase their empathy for Marcos Jr.
The narratives created ‘portray his father’s two-decade rule as a golden age of peace and prosperity while whitewashing human rights abuses and the plundering of state coffers’, reported GMA News. Not only nostalgic Marcos’ supporters but also a young electorate echo these narratives. For example, a 25-year-old hopes that Marcos Jr. will build up on his father’s “legacy” and his investments into public infrastructure.
The disinformation campaign influences the electorate’s perception not only of the Marcoses but also of the opposition. Analyses of Twitter activities by the #FactsFirstPH campaign show a strong political polarization that facilitates spreading fake news. Twitter accounts favoring Marcos are significantly more involved in negative posts about presidential candidate Leni Robredo as well as her supporters than vice versa.
Although Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is leading the opinion polls with 56% according to Pulse Asia surveys (as of March 21, 2022), polls favoring Leni Robredo climbed to 24% in a very short time period.
Photo © Engin Akyurt