Reports about fake news during 2022 polls resurface as Marcos says it has ‘no place’ in society

June 21, 2023 - 3:53 PM
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The Presidential Communications Office (PCO), through its Freedom of Information Program Management Office (FOI-PMO), formally opened the 14th Edition of the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) on 19 June 2023 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). (Presidential Communications Office / Released)

Reports about fake news during the 2022 national elections were brought up after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. stated that it has “no place in modern society.”

The chief executive on Monday delivered a speech at the 14th International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC)  where he asserted that the country is one with the organization in advancing people’s right to access information.

“The Philippines stands in solidarity with the ICIC and the entire international community in this advocacy. As a nation with a robust democracy, we reaffirm our commitment to champion this basic human right. It remains indelibly etched in our fundamental law,” Marcos said on June 14.

He cited the country’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Program, which was launched in 2016 during the beginning of the term of his predecessor, former president Rodrigo Duterte.

This enables Filipinos to make formal requests to get information held by the government, excluding sensitive and important data related to national security.

The FOI requesting program, however, does not cover the Office of the President and some offices under it.

“The FOI Program has greatly advanced the campaign against misinformation and disinformation in the country, a problem that we in the Philippines also suffer from, as I guess all of us do around the world,” Marcos said in his speech.

“Like everyone here, we, too, recognize as a matter of principle that fake news should have no place in modern society,” he added.

The president also said that the government will implement a media and information literacy campaign to combat disinformation.

He did not acknowledge how the rampant spread of falsehoods has spruced up his image during the campaign trail for the highest elective post in the land.

This was brought up by some Filipinos who learned about Marcos’ comments about fake news where he said it has “no place in modern society.”

In response to his comment, market analyst John Paul Tanyag shared a screengrab of a news article that reported an analysis made by a fact-checking initiative group before the election on May 9, 2022.

Tsek.ph on May 8 reported that “92% of fact checks about Marcos were false or misleading information in his favor.”

The analysis noted that the then-presidential bet “received credit for things he had little or nothing to do with, including bills and laws, while incredulous claims padded his personal and political performance.”

Meanwhile, it said that former vice president Leni Robredo, one of Marcos’ previous rivals in the presidential polls, was the most targeted candidate regarding falsehoods and disinformation.

Another Tsek.ph analysis in February 2022 revealed that Marcos was the biggest beneficiary of falsehoods, saying that it has debunked lots of false claims about Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s Martial Law and the People Power Revolution, among others.

“Marcos Jr., for example, was falsely depicted as a victim of Robredo’s cheating in the 2016 vice presidential race. This even when the Supreme Court has ruled that he had failed to prove his allegations of poll irregularities and had chosen instead ‘to make sweeping allegations of wrongdoing,'” the report read.

“Supporters also made it appear that his no-show at the interview with GMA’s Jessica Soho cost the network millions of advertising revenues, a falsehood,” it added.

Another Twitter user also recalled how Poynter Institute took note of how Marcos “relied on a misinformed electorate and a potent propaganda campaign” to secure electoral victory, according to the organization.

“Poynter, the center of fact-checking, journalism ethics and media literacy, headlined last year that you benefitted from disinformation,” the user said in response to Marcos’ comments about fake news having “no place in modern society.”

In 2021, fact-checking organization VERA Files reported that Marcos “benefited the most from election-related disinformation in 2021,” while his rival Robredo was the “favorite target.”

Another Twitter user also recalled how Marcos repeated a false claim about the Ilocos Norte windmills during his inauguration as president.

“I would like to remind President Marcos and Filipinos that this was one of his first acts as president,” the user said, linking a report by the Philippine Center on Investigative Journalism which debunked anew the windmills claim.

“In his first speech as president, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. claimed anew that he built the windmills in his home province Ilocos Norte. This has been fact-checked repeatedly. They were built by private companies,” the report said.

Months before the 2022 national elections, Marcos denied allegations of spreading fake news during his campaign trail.

“Wala kayong naririnig na fake news (mula) sa akin. Ang dami sinisi sa amin, pinapalitan namin ang kasaysayan… Wala naman kami na sinasabi na ganoon,” he was quoted as saying in March 2022.

Marcos also called himself a “victim” of fake news before, adding that there were many fact-check reports about him on claims that he supposedly did not say.