Election watchdog Kontra Daya calls out BBM for 'massive' misinformation campaigns

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Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Junior, presidential candidate and son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, greets supporters during a rally in Las Pinas City, suburban Manila, on March 13, 2022. Philippine election watchdog Kontra Daya denounced the Marcos camp for its 'disinformation' campaign. (Photo by JAM STA ROSA / AFP) (Photo by JAM STA ROSA/AFP via Getty Images)

Election watchdog Kontra Daya has echoed reports that presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his team have employed misinformation campaigns to garner support in the electoral contest.

Prof. Danilo Arao, Convenor of Kontra Daya, said there is "massive" misinformation occurring on social media networks, but "things can be turned around as long as we're able to engage those who are purveyors of fake news."

Arao was speaking on March 24 at the Public Forum on the 2022 Philippine Elections organized by IBON International and Council for People's Development and Governance.

"The Marcoses have prepared for this since 1989," said Arao. "That was the time they made a comeback from their exile in the United States and they slowly inched their way into the so- called people’s hearts by running at the local level initially to reconsolidate the ‘Solid North’, and eventually the brother and sister in tandem got in the Senate. The brother ran in the Vice Presidential elections and almost made it, and now the dictator’s son is making a go for the presidency, somewhat confident that the network of disinformation will work on his favor... We hope that the outcome of the May 9 elections will turn the tide to the truth."

Arao emphasized that Kontra Daya is a non-partisan group and doesn't endorse any particular candidate. "However, given that misinformation is a form of election fraud, we are comfortable with calling out the Marcoses for the misinformation that they do," he said.

Former senator and current frontrunner Marcos Jr, or Bongbong as he is known, has repeatedly denied spreading fake news.

"Iyong kredibilidad ko ang pagagandahin ko kasi unang-una, wala kayong naririnig na fake news (mula) sa akin. Ang dami sinisi sa amin, pinapalitan namin ang kasaysayan. Tingnan niyo kasi kung saan nangyari iyon. Wala naman kami na sinasabi na ganoon," he said on Saturday.

(I will improve my credibility because first of all, you don't hear any fake news from me. Many have been accusing us of trying to revise history. But look at where those information come from. We're not saying anything like that.)

But experts say the Marcos machinery has spent years investing in building formidable online networks that spread false and misleading claims about candidates.

Data analysts say that there is more activity on social media pages promoting pro-Marcos sentiments, than on those in support of Bongbong's electoral rival Leni Robredo.

Critics say Marcos Jr and his supporters have tried to paint a positive narrative of his father's two-decade rule while whitewashing corruption and human rights abuses.

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