May 12, 2022

Son of disgraced Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and heir to the family dynasty, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. won the Philippine general election in a landslide victory on Tuesday. Based on polling and prevailing sentiment in the Philippines, the results didn’t surprise many, including the nation’s journalists. However, as Philippine fact-checkers noted, the victory relied on a misinformed electorate and a potent propaganda campaign.

“Even in the months before the filing of candidacies had taken place, we were already flagging bits of election-related misinformation and disinformation,” said Meeko Angela Camba, head of a fact-checking initiative focused on public figures at VERA Files, a Philippine journalism and fact-checking outlet. “Among the patterns that we’ve spotted, particularly for online disinformation, was that disinformation and misinformation tends to favor one particular candidate and targets others.”

The candidate that benefited most, Camba explained, was Marcos.

“We have seen disinformation falsely claiming that the Philippine economy during the Marcos Senior regime was the golden age,” Camba said.

Smaller claims have also popped up around that narrative — that the exchange rate of the Philippine peso to the dollar was very low or that the Philippines was the richest country in Asia, or second after Japan, during that period.

Other false posts protected the reputation of the Marcos dynasty, deflecting or denying that the family’s wealth was “ill-gotten,” or claiming that Bongbong Marcos holds a bachelor’s degree from Oxford when in fact he only has a “special diploma.” (There is an entire topic section devoted to the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth on the Rappler website, which details some of the ways the family took billions during the Marcos Senior dictatorship and its current legal battles with government agencies in the Philippines.)

In addition to there being beneficiaries of the election-related mis- and disinformation, there have also been targets. According to Cambda, there have been stark differences in how the disinformation portrays the characters of the two rival candidates – Vice President Leni Robredo and Marcos – to online voters.

“Robredo has been a favorite target of misinformation,” Camba said. “These claims tend to question her capability as a public official, portraying her as someone who is kind of intellectually inferior against the other candidates.”

“I’m not questioning the credibility of the election itself. I think we can say that the election was conducted properly,” said Ellen Tordesillas, a veteran Filipino journalist and a co-founder of VERA Files. “Really what the problem was when the people went to the polls yesterday was that that they were not making informed decisions; they were making ‘disinformed’ decisions.”

Fact-checkers noted the younger Marcos’ presidency will likely represent a continuation of Duterte’s when it comes to press freedoms and access.

“Under the Duterte administration, it’s been quite challenging already,” Cambda said. “With indications of how Bongbong Marcos has acted toward the media, throughout the campaign, you know, avoiding interviews or not holding many press briefings or conversations with journalists on the campaign trail, access to information is something we should watch out for.”

Interesting fact-checks

  • Rappler: FALSE: The vote can be changed in the vote-counting machine using USB and ‘codes’ (Filipino)
    • This fact check debunks a claim circulating on Facebook and in private group chats that Philippine election machines can be hacked, and their votes changed, using a USB device. A Filipino elections commissioner noted to Rappler that vote-counting machines do not, in fact, have USB ports.
  • VERA Files: ‘Comelec’ advisory on friendships, debates: NOT TRUE (Filipino)
    • Contrary to online images, the Philippine commission of elections – or COMELEC – did not advise Filipinos about friendship during the presidential debates. “There is no such thing,” COMELEC told VERA Files.
  • PolitiFact: Ron DeSantis exaggerates outstanding graduate student loan debt (English)
    • Florida governor Ron DeSantis misspoke when he said almost 60 percent of student debt is from graduate school. While grad degrees do cost more in general than undergraduate degrees, DeSantis’s quote relies on a faulty understanding of the study that he cited. Fifty-six percent of student debt is owed by households in which at least one member has a graduate degree, but as PolitiFact points out, that is not the same as 56% of student debt being associated with a graduate degree.
  • USA Today: Fact Check: Testosterone levels have dropped in recent decades, but not by 50% (English)
    • A viral Twitter post claims testosterone has dropped in men by 50% in the last two decades. While testosterone levels have indeed fallen, the actual drop is less than that. The most recent data studies a time period from 1999 to 2016, showing a drop of only 25%. PolitiFact rated the claim “PARTLY FALSE.”
  • Lead Stories: Fact Check: Tennessee, Missouri Are NOT Banning Plan B, Other Emergency Contraceptive Pills (English)
    • Claims are spreading on Facebook and Twitter that Tennessee and Missouri are banning, or have already banned IUDs, Plan B and other emergency contraceptives. While Tennessee has passed legislation restricting the use of abortion pills in certain cases, those are different than contraceptives.

Quick hits


From the news:

  • Italy launches inquiry into Kremlin disinformation: Italy suspects multiple Russian TV personalities of being paid by the Kremlin to advance pro-Russian narratives. An investigation is currently underway. (The Guardian, Angela Giuffrida)
  • Do Republicans Want to Throw Doctors who Break Abortion Laws in Jail? The ‘Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act,’ co-sponsored by 45 Republican senators, proposes third-degree felony sentencing of up to five years for doctors who perform abortions. This contradicts GOP messaging distributed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee on May 3, which suggests senators use the talking point that “Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail.” (PolitiFact, Jon Greenberg)
  • Culture wars, misinformation & Ukraine further complicate firms’ social media policies and presence: The Russia-Ukraine war has made some firms reevaluate their policies on monitoring employee social media presence. “Firms should consider issuing additional guidance about posting on emotionally divisive issues and sharing posts that could be misinformation.” (Reuters, Rachel Wolcott)

From/for the community:

  • The countdown is on. In six weeks, more than 450 fact-checkers from 85 different countries will come together in Oslo, Norway, for the ninth annual GlobalFact. Join us at the world’s largest fact-checking summit June 22-25 to discuss the best practices of our craft and spark meaningful discourse. Can’t make it to Oslo? Virtual tickets are also available. Learn more at The registration deadline for in-person participants is May 20.
  • IFCN published an explainer article on the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board.
  • Applications to be considered for the African Fact-Checking Awards are due July 15 at midnight. “To qualify, entries must have been first published or broadcast in the period from August 1, 2021 to July 15, 2022. The fact check should conclude that a claim about an important topic, originating in or relevant to Africa, is either misleading or wrong.”

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Seth Smalley is a reporter at Poynter and the IFCN. Get in touch at or on Twitter @sethsalex.
Seth Smalley

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