Analyzing Duterte’s role in Marcos’ campaign and his imminent triumph.
“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
The rampant attacks on the media under the Duterte administration were the start of what Facebook executive Katie Harbath considered an “infodemic” in the Philippines. ABS-CBN, Maria Ressa, and Rappler have all been victims of the administration’s offensive operations against press freedom. This sowed doubt and distrust in the media. Instead of credible and fact-based news outlets, most Filipinos have begun consuming agenda-driven ‘blogs’ and novice news outlets, which have questionable credibility. The phenomenon has reached a climax as national election campaigns heat up. One would think the move was to serve the administration’s own interests. But what does this say about Duterte’s role in Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s campaign today?
One thing worth noting is how the Marcoses, according to investigative journalist Sheila Coronel, have a history of twisting truths with the help of allies. Coronel detailed how a court in Laoag tried and found Ferdinand Marcos Sr guilty of killing his father Mariano Marcos’ rival, Julio Nalundasan, when he ran for representative of Ilocos Norte in the National Assembly in her lecture on martial law (Marcos and Memory: The Past in Our Future). Ferdinand “made an impassioned plea to be allowed to continue his law studies while in jail.” Briefly, Marcos was acquitted after writing an 830-page brief to the Supreme Court and arguing his case, acting as his own lawyer.
According to Coronel, Nalundasan’s killer remained faceless up until this writing. However, she noted that Jose P. Laurel, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the decision, was Marcos’s law professor at UP. “It was he who persuaded the Supreme Court to overturn the conviction, not because Marcos was innocent, but because the country needed brilliant young people like him,” Coronel emphasizes.
”History should not be left to historians… Make history, and then write it.” Marcos wrote in his diary in 1971.
Moving forward in time, we see Marcos Sr. becoming president, the Martial Law, human rights violations, and news censorship. Then came 2016, the year Rodrigo Duterte became the Philippines’ 16th president. Since he assumed office, there have been over 223 cases of attacks on journalists, of which 114 are linked to state agents (data from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines). And surely, it made an impact.
Technology has made information widely accessible, but this has come at a cost. Facebook has been one of the platforms plagued by disinformation. More than 30% of its users in the Philippines are 18–24 years old, making them more susceptible to fake news; this is the demographic that is expected to account for 24 million votes in the coming election. A study done by the Ateneo Policy Center, a diagnosis of the presence and depth of fake news vulnerability, shows that among the 24,625 young Filipinos from 25 partner colleges and universities who participated in the survey, almost half got a score below the pass rate, which is typically 75 percent in the Philippines. Further analysis shows that half of the respondents from Mindanao failed to reach the passing rate; this is the region from which Duterte hails.
Another Ateneo study, which could shed more light on the situation, discovered that supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte have “lower capacity” in distinguishing correct from false information. Here is Boses Pilipinas convenor Dr. Imelda Deinla explaining the phenomenon.
Political analyst Richard Heydarian says it is wrong to solely blame the Duterte administration for the return of the Marcoses to power. He observes that the Marcoses have been greeted with open arms by the Filipinos since their return from exile. But the Liberal Party has failed to act upon it, Heydarian claims. And the Marcoses took advantage of this, carefully knocking on the doors of the Malacanang palace, patiently waiting for someone to open it for them. But one could not deny the fact that the Duterte administration has been mechanized to fully realize this 30-year mission.
The greatest threat we are facing today is not a dictator’s son having the highest seat in government. It is the power of disinformation to revise history, which Marcos Sr has explicitly sworn to do, and it serves as the foundation for the rest of their lies. Though he has not yet expressed support for any presidentiable*, Duterte has already done Marcos Jr. and his family a favor.
*This was written on March 27th, a month before the national polls.
Sheila Coronel’s lecture on martial law
Philippines: diagnosing the infodemic
State agents linked to over 100 attacks, threats against PH media under Duterte admin
The Link Between Fake News Susceptibility and Political Polarization of the Youth in the Philippines
Diary of Ferdinand E. Marcos
Share of Facebook users in the Philippines as of July 2021, by age, with forecasts until 2026