Two presidential candidates in the Philippines were favourite subjects of disinformation in 2021 according to a Vera Files Fact Check Yearender.
BBM benefitted most from election-related disinformation while his political rival Leni Robredo was a favourite target to vilify. The report was authored by Merinette Retona.
VERA Files is one of the two Facebook third party factcheckers (the other is Rappler) in the Philippines. It is also a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network, an organization of factcheckers in the world based at Poynter Institute for Media Studies in the U.S.
VERA Files Fact Check, a third-party fact checking partner of Meta, debunked 336 viral online posts from Jan. 1 to Dec. 10. Over a third of these (120) were related to the upcoming Philippine national elections.
Of this number, 52 either promoted Marcos, who is aspiring for the presidency in the May polls, or distorted facts about his family's ill-gotten wealth cases and the atrocities committed under the administration of his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
The post that garnered the most views and had the highest reach among all election-related content online verified by VERA Files Fact Check was an April 2020 Facebook (FB) video that resurfaced this November. It carried false, misleading, and inaccurate claims about the Swiss bank accounts that Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos opened in 1968 to hold ill-gotten assets.
Common themes in pro-Bongbong disinformation, apart from his family's ill-gotten riches, included false claims about his Oxford education and manipulated images and videos that were made to show electoral rallies in support of his candidacy but were, in fact, of different events.
Meanwhile, the most-targeted subject of disinformation publishers was Marcos’ political rival, Vice President Leni Robredo. With 28 flagged disinformation posts targeted against her, Robredo was the main prey of election-related false claims among local public figures.
The first wave of erroneous content concerning Robredo emerged in February. To recall, it was on February 16 when the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, dismissed Marcos’ election protest on her win in the 2016 elections.
Throughout the year, VERA Files fact-checked 11 viral posts related to the poll protest — 10 of which poked at the credibility of Robredo’s victory in 2016. The other one falsely claimed that the case’s ponente, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, was getting impeached.
Another dominant theme among disinformation posts aimed at the vice president was the depiction of her making nonsensical remarks and being incompetent to hold public office. Of the nine fact checks related to this, five involved made-up statements attributed to Robredo. The latest was a revival of an old fake quote where she supposedly encouraged illegal drug users to carry a gun for a “fair fight” during police raids. (Click on the link above to open for more details on this report.)