Did Grace Poe tap Marcos ‘social media strategist’ Franco Mabanta as consultant?

Camille Elemia
Did Grace Poe tap Marcos ‘social media strategist’ Franco Mabanta as consultant?
The office of Senator Grace Poe denies that she enlisted the services of self-proclaimed social media strategist Franco Mabanta

Did Grace Poe tap Franco Mabanta, a pro-Duterte and Marcos social media personality accused of spreading propaganda, as her social media consultant and strategist?

Photos posted by Mabanta on his accounts appeared to depict such. The former television personality turned self-confessed “social media strategist to the big dogs” posted photos of his and his team’s meetings with Poe, husband Neil Llamanzares, and son Brian.

Poe is the chairman of the Senate committee on public information and mass media. She held a series of hearings on fake news in 2017.

At least two sources privy to the matter said Mabanta has been mentioning Poe as one of his patrons in his pitches to prospective clients. 

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Grace is a Facebook anomaly. In this modern era where every political strategist in the world knows that social media is increasingly indispensable in directing the trajectory of the narrative, she's maintained an asphyxiating stranglehold on the #1 senatorial spot — leaving Villar, Imee, Estrada, JPE and even the powerful Sara Duterte (who's since dropped out of the senate race to handle Davao) essentially no space to even attempt to shift lanes and take the lead. It's game over in the senatorial Game of Thrones. This in spite of being hammered HARD online everyday. GP is the only national-level politician who's consistently strong in all demographics from A to E. It's undeniable: she's rock solid. Quite impressive, if we're being completely honest.  Question: do you think Poe is the most popular senator of the last two decades?

A post shared by Franco Cruz Mabanta (@franco.mabanta) on

Photo from Mabanta's Instagram post

Photo from Mabanta's Instagram

In his posts, Mabanta called Poe his friend and referred to her as the number 1 senator for 2019.

But the camp of Poe denied hiring Mabanta. They said Mabanta is neither a consultant nor a part of Poe’s social media team.

“With regard to that, we are grateful that he supports our advocacies but he is not part of our social media team,” Poe’s office told Rappler in a message on Monday, November 12.

“No, he’s [also] not a consultant,” they added.

Mabanta also serves as the social media director of Bongbong Marcos.

Mabanta is facing libel charges for making fun of the appearance of pro-opposition blogger Jover Laurio.

In various posts, Mabanta referred to Laurio as an “Ogre Lady,” who is “profoundly disgusting” and “hideous.” He also accused her of playing the “victim card” and being funded by “Yellows,” referring to the Liberal Party.

Mabanta also drew the ire of social media users for his pro-fat shaming post.

“I think the world would be a better place if all these weak minds that are captive to their bad food habits were constantly told to get off their fucking couches and stop being little bitches. Nothing motivates people to get into shape like insecurity,” he said in the now deleted post. 

In October 2017, Poe praised Thinking Pinoy blogger Rey Joseph Nieto for his “excellent research” and “neutrality.” Thinking Pinoy, a blatantly pro-administration blog, is among the sites accused of propagating fake news or disinformation online. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com