Malacañang defends Duterte tapping Facebook for 2016 polls

Mara Cepeda
Malacañang defends Duterte tapping Facebook for 2016 polls
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says it would have been 'foolhardy' for any political candidate not to use the popular social networking site as a campaign tool

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang came to the defense of President Rodrigo Duterte for making use of Facebook to campaign during the 2016 presidential elections. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday, December 29, that it would have been “foolhardy” for any political candidate not to use the popular social media website.

“On the other issue of Facebook being utilized by President Duterte, well, the technology exists and would have been foolhardy for any political candidate not to tap Facebook as a campaign tool. All candidates did so,” said Roque. 

“Unfortunately for his detractors, President Duterte appeared to have been the best candidate who utilized Facebook the most,” he added. 

According to Roque, the Internet is a sign of the modern age’s free marketplace of ideas which must be allowed to flourish, “as freedom of expression is responsible for freedom of thought and public opinion, which we know will fiscalize governments.” 

This comes after Facebook chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg was confronted in an MSNBC interview about creating a team that trained politicians how to maximize Facebook as a campaign tool. 

Among those trained by the said Facebook team was Duterte’s campaign staff.


“Giving tips to a few campaigns in a constitutional democracy can be different in giving tips to this authoritarian Duterte. Facebook learned that quickly. In fact, after his team got that Facebook briefing, his allies went into overdrive, pushing fake news and accounts along with his other wider campaigns,” MSNBC anchor Ari Melber told Zuckerberg. 

The Facebook CEO said the social networking site is not focused on gaining profits alone. 

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for. The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world,” he said.  

A 3-part Rappler report detailed how groups supportive of Duterte have used social media to spread propaganda over the Internet. This is done partly through bots and fake accounts that work together to spread the same message and create an alternative reality for real people to believe in.

Duterte himself admitted that his team had hired online defenders and trolls during the campaign. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.