With less than ten days left before the elections, political hopefuls boost efforts to woo voters. There are more than 65 million Filipinos who will ultimately determine the country’s future leaders. Absentee voting began last week and unauthorized exit polls became the source of spurious online content. An unofficial exit poll detailing votes from five countries was circulated last week. Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson James Jimenez tweeted that exit polls are “not the official tally of votes,” hence it cannot be the basis for establishing voting results.

A photo of a ballot from New Zealand went viral on Twitter, because it showed that Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo’s name was left out. The image is manipulated, according to COMELEC’s Office for Overseas Voting. Another story being spread online is an advisory about crossing out nominees with your pen when voting to ensure the Vote Counting Machine does not count it. This is not true. Voters are advised to strictly follow COMELEC’s rules and the advice of groups doing voters’ education.

Through rose-colored glasses

Robredo’s pink movement continues to gain momentum, evidenced by her huge rally turnouts. Critics are relentless in discrediting this enormous mass, either downplaying by the number of attendees, accusing them of being bribed to attend, or misrepresenting events to belittle Robredo’s campaign. An example is an image of La Union’s Rosas Ti Ayat Music Festival used to imply a low turnout. A pink-clad statue of Jesus Christ was also repeatedly shared to suggest her campaign’s irreverence to religious customs. Protesters cursing deposed dictator Ferdinande E. Marcos Sr. was also disseminated on social media to insinuate that Robredo supporters are referring to Marcos Jr. 

Critics also claimed that high attendance in rallies is the result of a heavily-funded campaign machinery. They allege that between six to eight million pesos were spent during Robredo’s Cavite sortie. As for her Cebu rally, a couple of Facebook pages supporting rival Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. circulated an obviously edited image that claimed a turnout of one million. Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, on the other hand, exaggerated rival UniTeam rally turnout in the province, claiming an attendance of 300,000. Students were also accused of being forced to attend the Cebu rally. A staunch supporter of the UniTeam tandem and former broadcast journalist also posted an image supposedly from the Cebu rally. However, the said photo was actually taken from the sortie in Pasay. All these were fact-checked and proven false.

Two weeks ago, malicious claims attacked Robredo’s daughter, Aika. This week, she was targeted by political rivals again with a tweet that supposedly confirms these previously debunked claims. In Baguio, Robredo’s youngest daughter, Jillian, figured in a now-viral video of being heckled by a local in the market. Detractors claim that Jillian insulted market-goers and suggested that she would “educate” them. These are all falsehoods.

The thorns in Robredo’s roses

Robredo continues to take a lot of heat from social media pundits and other personalities seeking to discredit her accomplishments. Quotes attributed to, or about her, were either edited or fabricated to belie her intentions. For example, Dasmariñas City councilor Kiko Barzaga claimed that Robredo accused his political clan of being traitors. This is false. Robredo’s birthday greeting to actress Kim Chiu sparked an online debate on the meaning of the phrase “in better place.”

Robredo was also accused of planning to derail President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program. A TikTok user also asserted she started the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo during the height of Typhoon Rolly. A quote card impersonating media outlet Rappler misrepresented Robredo as claiming assured victory and chaos should she lose. These are all spurious.

Other fact-checks regarding Robredo also included a claim that she worked in all branches of the government. This is false. While she did work with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), this is not part of the judiciary branch, contrary to the claim, but of the justice department. The PAO also denounced an allegation, supposedly made by their agency, that Robredo did not handle cases as a lawyer. Another critic also insinuated that Robredo lied about her tenure as an Economics professor. This is false too.

Fact-checks concerning other presidential hopefuls:

Red-tagging is still a thing, unfortunately

The pernicious practice of red-baiting, also known as red-tagging, of several political candidates and organizations has remained rampant throughout the campaign period. An online publication, and at least two news outlets associated with Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), claimed that Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison is advising Robredo’s political party. Other groups accused of having ties with the CPP-NPA-NDF (New People’s Army; National Democratic Front of the Philippines) include media outlet Rappler (of being a mouthpiece of the organization), as well as party-lists Gabriela (for recruiting insurgents), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN (having links with the communists), and the Makabayan bloc (as legal fronts of the CPP). These are all baseless claims.

More efforts to distort historical facts

The strategy of deflecting the Marcoses’ atrocities into their political rivals is also heavily used by their loyal supporters to redeem their name and support Marcos Jr.’s campaign. The shutdown of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant has been blamed on the People Power Movement when it was the ousted dictator himself who mothballed it due to health safety concerns. Suspended lawyer and senatorial candidate of UniTeam slate Larry Gadon even claimed that the EDSA revolution did not happen. On the other hand, former President Cory Aquino was compared to the dictator, with the former supposedly favoring for violence. This video lacks context—Aquino was referring to coup plotters, contrary to what the video insinuates.

As for the Martial Law, which claimed thousands of lives, supporters exploit social media to spread falsehoods. Senator Imee Marcos shared false claims surrounding his father’s supposed military achievements. A TikToker claimed that only subversives were killed during Martial Law. Fact-check partners debunked several other claims such as former senator Ninoy Aquino organizing the Moro secession and communist insurgency, that Martial Law saved the country from communism, and that the Philippines was among the strongest global military forces during Marcos’s regime.

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Tsek.ph is a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections. It is an initiative of academe, media and civil society to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.