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Fact Finders Try to Combat Disinformation Before Philippine Election


A passenger jeepney passes campaign posters outside a polling center in Manila, Philippines, May 6, 2022.

On Monday the Philippines will elect a new president. On top of all the campaigning, voters have faced a barrage of disinformation, particularly on social media.

Thirty-five-year-old Mary Grace Glorioso is watching Facebook and YouTube to get news about the Philippines presidential race. She has narrowed her choice to two candidates. One is Leni Robredo, the current vice president, but Glorioso is leaning toward the heavy frontrunner, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., because of what she hears about him on social media.

Presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, reacts to the crowd at their last campaign rally known as "Miting De Avance", May 7, 2022 in Paranaque city, Philippines.
Presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, reacts to the crowd at their last campaign rally known as "Miting De Avance", May 7, 2022 in Paranaque city, Philippines.

The Philippines will prosper if he wins and bring back the golden days, Glorioso said.

The Golden Days is a common theme on social media, referring to the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-80s, when Marcos’ father, the late dictator was president. But the phrase whitewashes history. The reality is thousands of people, including political opponents and activists, were tortured, killed or disappeared. The Marcos family is accused of stealing $5 billion to $10 billion when Marcos Sr. was in power. Observers say revisionist history is part of a trend on social media to accompany positive posts about Marcos Jr. and negative ones for Robredo.

Philippine Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo holds pink flowers during her "Miting de Avance" rally in Makati City, Metro Manila, May 7, 2022.
Philippine Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo holds pink flowers during her "Miting de Avance" rally in Makati City, Metro Manila, May 7, 2022.

Che de los Reyes leads the fact check team at ABS-CBN News, one of dozens of media outlets, universities and civil society groups that are combating disinformation. De los Reyes acknowledges that fact checkers face an uphill battle.

“It’s so easy to manufacture a false claim, right? You don’t need to do anything much," she said. "You can just keep on churning and churning falsehoods, false claims, but fact checking takes a lot of time.”underlined changes OK?"

Marcos Jr. has told local media his campaign is not behind any disinformation but Cleve Arguelles, a political science lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, has noticed some trends.

“You can really see the intimate connection between the official campaign and what trolls for example, what troll accounts for example would try to popularize and would try to trend on social media,” he said.

The question remains whether voters will base their decisions on information or disinformation.

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