Breaking the Bias on International Women’s Day

The Philippines commemorated International Women’s Day, which was celebrated globally on March 8, and with the hashtag #BreaktheBias. We, in Tsek.Ph, stand with women who assert their rights, including the right to suffrage, broken down to voting freely and making informed decisions on election day. We stand with women leaders who received the brunt of disinformation and misogyny. We support them and honor their contribution to nation-building and progress.

Amid the siege of disinformation

While continuously targeted by massive disinformation campaigns, Vice President and presidential aspirant Leni Robredo has maintained her campaign momentum, as her supporters continued to turn up in droves with every rally. Critics, however, persisted with their attacks on her. The headline-making story of Robredo riding a motorcycle, driven by a UniTeam supporter to make it in time for her Cavite rally, became the subject of a claim insisting that the incident was fictitious and the images being spread online was a mere photo opportunity.

Contrary to claims that deflated the number of her supporters in Mindoro, an estimated total of 9,500 people from Calapan and Pinamalayan attended her sorties. Promoters of her pink campaign also received the ire of her cynics. Priests and Catholic groups became targets of disinformation. One priest was allegedly “delicensed” for criticizing presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in support of Robredo. Someone accused a priest of delivering politically-motivated speeches. Another one claimed that Robredo is supposedly allied with communist rebels, thus red-tagging her.

After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to discredit Robredo’s crowd-drawing rallies, peddlers of disinformation revived the issues that were previously debunked by fact checkers, including the CNN and SMNI debates to the previous administration’s relief operations. Her Angat Buhay program was also singled out for its supposed lack of required documentation and alleged discontinued projects. Other efforts produced by her detractors include edited quotes to paint her as pro-war stance in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, a spliced video that mocked her achievements as vice president, and a previously debunked accusation that she was involved in dubious transactions.

Attempts to rebrand the Marcos family legacy

Meanwhile Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos continues to benefit from falsehoods by social media pundits. Statements by President Rodrigo Duterte allegedly endorsing Marcos were disseminated online. The implementation of Facebook’s measures to combat disinformation in its platforms, such as flagging and removing spurious content, was criticized by his supporters by accusing the social media platform of targeting his campaign. Mistruths concerning his participation (and lack of it) in debates also made their way on digital platforms.

Among the plethora of content that sought to promote the current Marcos campaign are the claims that valorized his father’s regime. One claimed that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was not only a friend of Marcos Sr., but was also supposedly guided by the ousted dictator’s work. Another used an old video to assert the claim that Marcos Sr. anticipated the response of the US towards the Ukraine-Russia conflict. The myth of the Tallano gold and the spins on the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth have been shared continuously by his supporters, even after being proven false by fact-checkers.

In an attempt to negate the human rights record of Marcos, several falsehoods assert the absence of abuse or deaths during the Martial Law era. There was also a claim that the dictator declared Martial Law primarily due to threats of rebellion. The martial law era was praised as behind the road construction of EDSA, the absence of labor contractualization, and the glorification of oligarchs and cronies, which were all fact-checked and proven untrue.

More posts this week: 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.