Ferdinand E. Marcos

Historian Ambeth Ocampo mobbed by Marcos influencers for talking about history

Rambo Talabong
Historian Ambeth Ocampo mobbed by Marcos influencers for talking about history
(1st UPDATE) Marcos influencers call Ambeth Ocampo 'ambitious.' A widely cited historian, Ocampo has won the National Book Award thrice and has been conferred the Order of Lakandula for his work on history.

MANILA, Philippines – After he commented on history to correct a remark that likened it to rumors, Philippine historian Ambeth Ocampo was mobbed by influencers and pages supportive of the Marcos administration on Facebook and Youtube.

The posts called him a “yellow historian,” linking him with the Philippine opposition and suggesting he had ulterior motives to criticize the Marcoses. The posts also insulted Ocampo’s appearance and made suggestions about his sexuality.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo mobbed by Marcos influencers for talking about history

Rappler found at least 20 posts across Facebook and YouTube, all either original or reposts of the other pages that sought to discredit Ocampo. The attacks peaked on July 3, with posts from morning to evening targeting Ocampo. As of Wednesday, July 6, the posts remained online on the platforms.

The flood of insults came after Ocampo made a comment about history – his field of expertise for decades – after an actress likened it to “rumors.”

It was a comment made by actress Ella Cruz, who was set to star in a propaganda film that sought to further whitewash the dark history of the Philippines under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Ocampo, also a history professor and a columnist, saw it as a teaching moment.

“History may have bias but it is based on fact, not opinion. Real History is about Truth, not lies, not fiction,” Ocampo said on July 2.

Most Philippine mainstream news outlets quoted Ocampo, juxtaposing his statement with Cruz’s. The posts were shared by thousands, bringing praise to Ocampo and ridicule for Cruz. But in the Marcos information ecosystem, Ocampo’s statement was used against him and Cruz was propped up as the hero.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo mobbed by Marcos influencers for talking about history

The first and most cited post in Marcos circles was that of lawyer Nick Nañguit, a lawyer known to support the Marcoses.

Also an accountant, Nañguit was repeatedly cited by Marcos influencers and vloggers to defend President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s multibillion-peso unpaid taxes even after the Bureau of Internal Revenue had demanded payment from Marcos.

Nañguit defended Cruz and described Ocampo as self-absorbed and “ambitious.”

Ocampo is a multi-awarded historian who is widely cited for his works on Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal. Ocampo was awarded the Fukuoka Prize in 2016, has won the Philippine National Book Awards thrice, and was conferred the Order of Lakandula for his work on history.

Nañguit, various websites, and Youtube channels then called Ocampo “stupid” and said he was not the “only authority” for history.

The refusal to believe in history as written by established historians is central to the Marcos disinformation and misinformation network. In the Marcos narrative, the family was victim to the People Power Revolution despite the well-documented human rights abuses and plunder under their patriarch's regime.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo mobbed by Marcos influencers for talking about history

A staple quote of Marcos influencers and supporters goes, "History is written by the victors." In the Philippine context, it seeks to discredit historians like Ocampo in order to direct people towards their own trusted witnesses of history – Marcos and their allies.

Meanwhile, the propaganda film that started all the debate revolved around the testimony of, in the words of the movie’s director himself – “one reliable source.”

In a statement on Saturday, July 9, the Network in Defense of Historical Truth and Academic Freedom came to the defense of Ocampo, emphasizing that he was "a well-regarded and highly professional historian."

"Historians like Ambeth Ocampo deserve this respect, and if a writer and scholar of Ocampo's stature is vilified like this, then what can others expect, when they stand up for truth and history?" it said in its statement. – with reports from Christa Escudero/Rappler.com

Historian Ambeth Ocampo mobbed by Marcos influencers for talking about history

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.