Notes and trends on election-related disinformation from verified claims and fact-checks of Tsek.ph partners.

Fulfilling tall orders and fighting tall tales

As daily reports of new COVID cases continue to break records, the government placed more than 80 areas, including Metro Manila, under Alert Level 3 until the end of January. Among the more assiduous government efforts to mitigate the ongoing health crisis is the Office of the Vice President’s Bayanihan E-Konsulta. This week, the teleconsultation program called for more doctors and nonmedical volunteers to attend to callers.

However, Bayanihan E-Konsulta became one of the primary targets of online fake news peddlers this week. False claims that the program deceived and gathered voters’ information surfaced. Fact-checking projects such as PhilstarInteraksyon and Fact Check Philippines debunked these allegations.

Disinformation channels doggedly spread insinuations of electoral fraud, after a daily had reported that the Commission on Election’s servers encountered a data breach early this week. Several posts were quick to link these allegations with Robredo’s presidential campaign. One Facebook post even claimed that Robredo’s camp hacked Comelec’s servers, thus imputing a crime. Another claimed that her former political camp, the Liberal Party, did it. An image of Robredo and former Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista circulated to purportedly mislead social media users with a false narrative associated with the breach.

Marcos Jr. and a curious case of ‘Zoomicron’

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made headlines last week when one of his lawyers made an absurd claim that he might “cause the spread of the virus” by attending a virtual Comelec hearing that will decide on petitions for his disqualification. However, despite his excuse of being ill, with a painfully congested throat, Marcos Jr. gave two radio interviews a day before the January 7 hearing. Dubbed “Zoomicron,” the legal fiasco provoked the ire of netizens and spurred the creation of parodies and memes.

The Marcos camp supporters tried to deflect the bummer by more false information. For example, Marcos Jr. asserted that the Philippines had already presented its case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the West Philippines Sea issue: This was clearly false as the ICC does not have jurisdiction over territorial disputes. Then a newspaper columnist contended that Marcos Jr, once a congressman, authored the country’s baselines law. However, fact-checkers, experts, and netizens were quick to call out this claim, which was subsequently modified by the columnist. Regardless, the original text remained unedited on printed copies of the newspaper.

Tsek.ph partners also noticed more fake news involving Marcos Jr.’s father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., this week. Posts alleging that the ousted former president initiated the distribution of Nutribuns across public schools in the 70s (false), lent 170 countries with 3,500 tonnes of gold (false), and that without his leadership, more Filipinos would’ve died during the rice crisis of 1972 (false), were among the claims debunked by fact-checkers.

More this week:

Other fake news reports attacking Leni Robredo and her campaign

Fact-checking claims by President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters

 FELIPE JOSE GONZALES

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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.