MANILA, Philippines – Kris Aquino apparently shelled out money to boost social media posts of anti-administration bloggers, according to her former business manager Nicko Falcis, who said that he was the one who carried out the social media campaign according to Aquino's instructions.
“Boosting” a post on Facebook means that it will reach a targeted audience for a certain number of days, depending on how much was paid for the boost.
In an Instagram comment, Aquino, the youngest sister of former president Noynoy Aquino, herself admitted to shelling out money “to boost” – though she did not specify which posts were boosted exactly.
“The unvarnished truth: I gave Nicko money to boost, with zero knowledge of my brother when my brother went to Congress to protect him from all trolls,” she wrote in the comment.
Aquino said that boosting the post was her way of making up for not being able to go with Noynoy to the Sandiganbayan, presumably referring to the time when the former president faced charges of graft and usurpation of authority in November 2017 for Mamasapano operations.
“I knew ayaw niya yun (social media campaigns, he is an idealist) so palihim kong ginawa. That’s why my brother had never met Nicko,” she said.
Falcis posted a screenshot of the comment on his Instagram page, saying that Aquino gave him specific instructions “to identify anti-administration/ anti-DDS blogs and give them funds to protect your ‘queendom’ through fb boosts.”
He said that in addition to boosting Aquino’s Facebook page, he also boosted the Pinoy Ako Blog page of anti-administration blogger Jover Laurio.
“Jover magically appeared in YOUR house when we were in a meeting. You told me you will give me cash so that there will be no paper trail.”
Falcis insisted that he did not pocket the money she gave him to boost the post.
“I am an accountant, so there’s proper FB documentation. There is no way that ‘baka may nabulsa sa pondo.’ I never stole from you, and you know that! I have receipts of the boostings, but you never bothered to review them, including all the reports and updates,” he wrote.
View this post on Instagram Your specific instructions were to identify anti-administration / anti-dds blogs and give them funds to protect your “queendom” through fb boosts. In addition to the Kris Aquino FB Page, I boosted Jover Laurio’s Pinoy Ako Blog page as an advertiser because YOU introduced her to me. Jover magically appeared in YOUR HOUSE when we were in a meeting. You told me you will give me cash so that there will be no paper trail. I used the cash you gave me properly, every peso and centavo. Remember, I'm an accountant, so there’s proper FB documentation. There is no way that "baka may nabulsa sa pondo." I never stole from you, and you know that! I have receipts of the boostings, but you never bothered to review them, including all the reports and updates. Please stop this bullying against my family and I. We refuse to be your victims. A post shared by Nicko F (@nix722) on Jan 7, 2019 at 8:37pm PST
In a blog post on January 2, Laurio addressed Falcis, claiming that he was the one who first approached her in January 2018 and offered to boost her posts.
“Tinanggap ko ang offer mo kasi hindi ko naman afford magboost. At saka bakit hindi, eh kapatid ka ng isa sa mga tumutuligsa sa mga ginagawang kapalpakan ng admin na to,” she added, referring to Falcis’ brother Jesus, a lawyer and vocal critic of the Duterte administration.
(I accepted your offer because I can’t afford to boost. And why not? You’re the brother of one of someone who criticizes the failures of this government.)
She also said that there was nothing wrong with boosting a post, saying that the purpose of doing so is to reach a wider audience.
“DDS camp is doing it. Kasi may pondo sila (because they have funds),” she said.
“We both know that Kris has nothing to do with the boosts. It was your choice because you don’t want Duterte, Mocha, and Sass,” she added.
Falcis’ brother, Jesus Falcis responded to Laurio’s blog post on his own Facebook page, posting a series of screenshots along with captions to counter Laurio’s claims.
One screenshot shows a group chat called “Resibo Group,” that supposedly included Aquino, Falcis, and Laurio. The chat shows Laurio sending a message saying “Hi guys” on January 1, 2018.
“Si Kuya, the former finance guy ni Kris Aquino, ang lumapit sayo para i-boost ka? Haha ano kala mo sa Pilipino, naive at pinanganak kahapon!” Jesus wrote in the caption.
(My brother, the former finance guy of Kris Aquino, was the one who approached you to boost your posts? What do you think of Filipinos, naive and born yesterday!)
Jesus also posted a screenshot of what appears to be a chat between Falcis and Laurio, where Laurio requested Falcis to boost one of her blog posts.
“She started posting blog articles totally unrelated to politics or politicians when she posted articles about Kris Aquino’s post claiming someone stole from her,” he said. “I confronted Jover about her blog article and told her it was about my brother. She didn’t take down her blog article even if my brother was not a politician but a private figure.”
“People have a right to know how a social media blogger like Jover Laurio was able to grow and reach many people. The COMELEC has stated it will require more transparency from social media political campaigns. One step is for the people to know which blogger is campaigning for whom,” he added.
While part of a political dynasty, Aquino has endorsements that limit her participation in politics, with contracts from multinational and local companies that explicitly forbid her from "divisive political participation, comments, or posts except when defending the honor of self, immediate family – meaning the memories of my parents, my siblings, and my sons." – Rappler.com