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MANILA, Philippines – In President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first year as president, lies and false narratives about him and his family continued to spread on social media.
Prior to his presidential victory, Marcos benefitted from election-related disinformation to boost his image, according to several Rappler reports and investigations, and other experts such as digital media researcher Fatima Gaw. (READ: Tracking the Marcos disinformation and propaganda machinery)
However, this victory didn’t stop the spread of false claims about Marcos, his family, and his father, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. One year into his presidency, some of the lies that disinformation peddlers spread to rebrand and rehabilitate the Marcos name have persisted.
Other lies changed and adapted to reinforce the false narratives, making Marcos look like he’s fulfilling the promises that disinformation peddlers spread during the elections.
We analyze these false claims tracked after the May 9, 2022 presidential elections up to the present.
Rappler fact-checked 130 claims related to the Marcoses from the day after elections up to the present.
Several themes have emerged in these false claims, but 73 of them – more than half of all debunked lies – were about the purported Marcos gold, as well as claims pertaining to propaganda.
The mythical Marcos gold, which has been at the center of false narratives about the Marcoses, is still being used and spread by disinformation peddlers. The alleged bank accounts (where they are stored, kept, or deposited) emerged as the most common theme in 48 of the 129 claims analyzed.
Claims to reinforce propaganda that sway the public into believing them and make it appear like Marcos is doing something to fulfill a supposed promise or policy pronouncement were the second most common, at 25. These were being pushed by supporters of the Marcos family even before the Marcos administration took over.
Rappler also fact-checked 15 lies about the alleged legacy of Marcos' father and 13 credit-grabbing claims – lies about projects that were supposedly started or had originated from Marcos himself or his father.
These persisting themes increased post-election after disinformation peddlers stopped making false claims about Marcos' opponents in the presidential race, particularly former vice president Leni Robredo. [READ: Robredo is top target of disinformation in initiative’s January 2022 fact-checks]
Disinformation actors are now using some of the false claim themes pertaining to the Marcos administration.
Some themes are now being linked to projects and acquisitions of the government, while some are being used to reinforce and solidify the existence of long-debunked myths about the Marcos family.
Gold, money from Marcos accounts now claimed to fund projects
Prior to the 2022 election, disinformation peddlers such as Filipino Future – present on both YouTube and Facebook – used the mythical Marcos gold and wealth as evidence that the Marcos family can fund and fulfill the promise of the late president.
However, compared to how the Marcos gold was used before and during the 2022 elections, peddlers now use the persisting myth in a new way. Rappler has fact-checked multiple posts that say Marcos is now fulfilling his father’s promise to give back their family's wealth by using the mythical gold and wealth to fund current government projects.
But despite these false claims, the gold promised by these disinformation peddlers is still nowhere to be found.
Gold 'withdrawn' in foreign trips
Marcos has been to nine countries since assuming office on June 30, 2022. Poking fun at Marcos’ frequent trips abroad, the popular American quiz show Jeopardy “featured” him with a play on his name: “Ferdinand Magellan Jr.”
In some of the trips he made, claims about Marcos withdrawing his family’s gold and wealth from supposed “Marcos accounts” existing in several countries he visited circulated on social media platforms.
However, Marcos himself, who reported every pledge his administration got – just to prove his trips were worth it – made no mention of withdrawing his family's gold abroad.
Marcos tied to personalities
In his first year as president, multiple false claims tied Marcos to big personalities and politicians. In these claims, the politicians or personalities either requested to meet with the President or they praised him.
A quick check on the official news reports and even the social media accounts of these personalities easily debunk the claims that disinformation peddlers are spreading.
Marcos, his office, and state-owned Radio Television Malacañang also have extensive recordings of meetings the President had. This means that any claim of him meeting with a personality, or these personalities praising him without any recording whatsoever as proof, has a high probability of being a lie.
Rappler observed that of the 130 fact-checked false claims about Marcos and his family, 68 were from disinformation peddlers who have repeatedly spread falsehoods.
Rappler debunked 27 false claims about the Marcoses from the YouTube channel PweDelie TV in the first year the family returned to power. Out of 27 claims from this YouTube channel, 25 were about the Marcos gold and account myth.
Since Marcos assumed office, Rappler fact-checked nine false claims from YouTube channel Sa Iyong Araw. Of these false claims, 6 were about the Marcos gold and account, while four claims were about achievements of both the younger and the elder Marcos.
Rappler debunked 7 false claims for each of the YouTube channels PINAS NEWS INSIDER and Kaalam PH. Almost all claims Rappler fact-checked from the former were about propaganda pertaining to fake presidential orders that Marcos supporters want the President to issue, while the latter's claims were about the family's ill-gotten wealth and the legacy of the elder Marcos.
It's worth noting that these YouTube channels have a combined 2.48 million subscribers. PweDelie TV is also a verified YouTube account.
Some of these repeat disinformation peddlers, like YouTube channel Showbiz Fanaticz and Filipino Future, have been creating false claims for already a few years. However, YouTube channel Sa Iyong Araw started spreading false claims about Marcos and his family only in December 2022.
So why do these false claims about Marcos and his family still persist even after he won as president? Historian and professor Xiao Chua told Rappler in an interview that the disinformation ecosystem today has become "more complicated now than even before" due to the varying agenda of disinformation actors who distort history.
"Before, it's known that what they are doing is for the elections. But now, what's the point? What's the end game? What do they want to happen in the future? Because all that's happening now, you have to consider what they'll do come 2028," Chua said.
Asked if this strategy will be effective to secure the political future of the Marcos family, University of the Philippines Diliman Political Science professor Jean Encinas-Franco, told Rappler that it will depend on the current administration's performance.
"[It] depends in the narrative in the next six years and how the people will perceive him and his programs," Encinas-Franco said.
The political science professor also said that Marcos should fulfill the promises he made during the elections while revitalizing the name of his family.
"He needs to convince Filipinos that in revitalizing their family name, their lives are also going to be better off from 2022 onwards. Because if not, then in the long run, people might think that you are so obsessed with revitalizing your family name and you forgot your promises to the nation no matter how lofty they were," Encinas-Franco said.
Chua said that it's worth mentioning that the disinformation about Marcos and his family that's currently spreading did not come "officially from the Palace."
"At least it's not coming from the Palace because before, it directly comes from the Palace. And even earlier into his presidency, he tried to distance himself from the vloggers," Chua said.
To Chua, the main problem is that the disinformation network of actors who were distorting historical narratives was not dismantled after the elections, and Marcos has not yet done anything to do so.
"In a way, it's also partly his fault. Because supposedly, after the election, the campaign should be disbanded because the agenda are already different. But right now, it feels like it's still the elections, doesn't it?" Chua said.
But some disinformation actors continue to create and spread disinformation because they "benefit" from it, Chua said. He did not expound on what these benefits are, but Chua could well have been referring to financial benefits, mere access, or even their growing influence and popularity on social media.
"[The] disinformation machine is deliberate but everything else is dramatis personae – the people who are within that kind of circle [are] also as complicated as [they] could be with various interests and all," Chua said. – with reports from Ailla Dela Cruz and Jezreel Ines/Rappler.com