Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
THE camp of presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM) on Saturday hit back at an online news network over its apparent attempts to discredit its campaign by using a “disinformation network to take down what it alleged as a disinformation network.”
Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, Marcos chief of staff and spokesman, issued the statement after it was reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts reportedly linked to supporters of Marcos based on the accounts and hashtags identified in a recent article by local news site Rappler.
The son and namesake of the country’s former president is drawing support from a massive social media campaign seeking to get him elected in May, which critics claim is attempting to rewrite the family’s history.
In a statement to AFP on Saturday, Twitter said the more than 300 accounts had been removed “for violating our platform manipulation and spam policy” and that an investigation was ongoing.
Twitter said sharing political content on an account or rallying people do so via hashtags was allowed, “unless the accounts are inauthentic, compensated or automated, which we see no clear evidence of in this case.”
Twitter said that “with the Philippine elections taking place this May, we remain vigilant about identifying and eliminating suspected information campaigns targeting election conversations.”
Last Monday, the social media giant said it was expanding a test feature that will allow users in Brazil, Spain and the Philippines to report misleading content.
But Rodriguez warned Twitter against Rappler which, he said, uses its platform to advance the political agenda of a certain presidential aspirant “by using a disinformation network to take down what it alleged as a disinformation network.”
“While it is true that there could have been hundreds of Twitter accounts that were suspended, there is no certainty that all of them belong to the supporters of Bongbong Marcos,” Rodriguez said.
Quoting information from an unidentified “Twitter spokesman,” Rodriguez said that there was “no mention of any account in [the] Marcos network, nor the exact number of accounts that were suspended.”
“Surprisingly, It was only Rappler which categorically mentioned that those accounts suspended by Twitter were more than 300 accounts in [the] Marcos network,” he said.
Rodriguez asked how Rappler knew the number “with absolute certainty” unless, he said, “it is part of those who perpetrated the disinformation.”
An election victory for Marcos would mark the ultimate political comeback for the family, which was chased into exile in the United States after his father was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986 amid allegations of corruption.
Recent voter surveys show Marcos holding a huge lead over his nearest rival and nemesis Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Filipinos are among the world’s heaviest users of social media, and the country has become a key battleground for fake news.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez told government station PTV News on Saturday that Marcos will join presidential interviews to be organized by ABS-CBN.
Whether Marcos would grant interviews with other media organizations, Rodriguez said: “Basta parehas ang laban haharap kami (If the fight is fair, we will show up).”
The camp of Marcos said it decided not to attend the talk show of GMA Network’s Jessica Soho because of her alleged bias against the Marcoses.
“Therefore, we believe her questions will just focus on negativity about BBM which the UniTeam dislike and will not subscribe as it hopes that the discourse in any forum about this coming elections must focus on how the aspiring presidents will solve our country’s lingering problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and what their plans are for our country to roll up from economic stagnation,” Rodriguez said in a separate statement.
Marcos and his vice presidential candidate, current Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, had formed the UniTeam campaign team geared for the May 2022 national and local elections.
Of the five leading candidates for the presidency, only Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Robredo, Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso have accepted the invitation.
Media giant GMA Network disputed Marcos’ claim.
“GMA Network takes exception to the statement of the camp of former senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. that Kapuso news pillar Jessica Soho is supposedly biased against the Marcoses, the reason for the presidential candidate to decline participation on ‘The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews,'” the network said in a statement on Saturday.
GMA defended Soho, citing her career and accolades.
“Throughout her career, Ms. Soho has consistently been named the most trusted media personality in the Philippines by both local and foreign organizations, a testament to her embodying the GMA News and Public Affairs ethos: ‘Walang Kinikilingan, Walang Pinoprotektahan, Serbisyong Totoo Lamang'” (No biases, no protections, just true public service), the network continued.
The network said that it was unfortunate for Marcos to decline its invitation, but said the questions in its “must-see special” will be tough.
“The questions are tough because the job of the presidency is tough,” the statement wrote. “We believe that this is an important exercise to inform the public about the candidates seeking their votes in Eleksyon 2022, to help them make the best, most informed choice on their ballots.”
In a tweet on Saturday, presidential candidate Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman said he was not invited by GMA.