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

Camille Elemia
The office of Senator Grace Poe denies that she enlisted the services of self-proclaimed social media strategist Franco Mabanta

CLIENT? The office of Senator Grace Poe denies getting the services of Franco Mabanta, the 'social media strategist' of Bongbong Marcos. Photo from Franco Mabanta's Instagram

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. 

{source}

<blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BpLy4xnH5Hs/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” data-instgrm-version=”12″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”><div style=”padding:16px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BpLy4xnH5Hs/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;” target=”_blank”> <div style=” display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;”></div></div></div><div style=”padding: 19% 0;”></div><div style=”display:block; height:50px; margin:0 auto 12px; width:50px;”><svg width=”50px” height=”50px” viewBox=”0 0 60 60″ version=”1.1″ xmlns=”https://www.w3.org/2000/svg” xmlns:xlink=”https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink”><g stroke=”none” stroke-width=”1″ fill=”none” fill-rule=”evenodd”><g transform=”translate(-511.000000, -20.000000)” fill=”#000000″><g><path d=”M556.869,30.41 C554.814,30.41 553.148,32.076 553.148,34.131 C553.148,36.186 554.814,37.852 556.869,37.852 C558.924,37.852 560.59,36.186 560.59,34.131 C560.59,32.076 558.924,30.41 556.869,30.41 M541,60.657 C535.114,60.657 530.342,55.887 530.342,50 C530.342,44.114 535.114,39.342 541,39.342 C546.887,39.342 551.658,44.114 551.658,50 C551.658,55.887 546.887,60.657 541,60.657 M541,33.886 C532.1,33.886 524.886,41.1 524.886,50 C524.886,58.899 532.1,66.113 541,66.113 C549.9,66.113 557.115,58.899 557.115,50 C557.115,41.1 549.9,33.886 541,33.886 M565.378,62.101 C565.244,65.022 564.756,66.606 564.346,67.663 C563.803,69.06 563.154,70.057 562.106,71.106 C561.058,72.155 560.06,72.803 558.662,73.347 C557.607,73.757 556.021,74.244 553.102,74.378 C549.944,74.521 548.997,74.552 541,74.552 C533.003,74.552 532.056,74.521 528.898,74.378 C525.979,74.244 524.393,73.757 523.338,73.347 C521.94,72.803 520.942,72.155 519.894,71.106 C518.846,70.057 518.197,69.06 517.654,67.663 C517.244,66.606 516.755,65.022 516.623,62.101 C516.479,58.943 516.448,57.996 516.448,50 C516.448,42.003 516.479,41.056 516.623,37.899 C516.755,34.978 517.244,33.391 517.654,32.338 C518.197,30.938 518.846,29.942 519.894,28.894 C520.942,27.846 521.94,27.196 523.338,26.654 C524.393,26.244 525.979,25.756 528.898,25.623 C532.057,25.479 533.004,25.448 541,25.448 C548.997,25.448 549.943,25.479 553.102,25.623 C556.021,25.756 557.607,26.244 558.662,26.654 C560.06,27.196 561.058,27.846 562.106,28.894 C563.154,29.942 563.803,30.938 564.346,32.338 C564.756,33.391 565.244,34.978 565.378,37.899 C565.522,41.056 565.552,42.003 565.552,50 C565.552,57.996 565.522,58.943 565.378,62.101 M570.82,37.631 C570.674,34.438 570.167,32.258 569.425,30.349 C568.659,28.377 567.633,26.702 565.965,25.035 C564.297,23.368 562.623,22.342 560.652,21.575 C558.743,20.834 556.562,20.326 553.369,20.18 C550.169,20.033 549.148,20 541,20 C532.853,20 531.831,20.033 528.631,20.18 C525.438,20.326 523.257,20.834 521.349,21.575 C519.376,22.342 517.703,23.368 516.035,25.035 C514.368,26.702 513.342,28.377 512.574,30.349 C511.834,32.258 511.326,34.438 511.181,37.631 C511.035,40.831 511,41.851 511,50 C511,58.147 511.035,59.17 511.181,62.369 C511.326,65.562 511.834,67.743 512.574,69.651 C513.342,71.625 514.368,73.296 516.035,74.965 C517.703,76.634 519.376,77.658 521.349,78.425 C523.257,79.167 525.438,79.673 528.631,79.82 C531.831,79.965 532.853,80.001 541,80.001 C549.148,80.001 550.169,79.965 553.369,79.82 C556.562,79.673 558.743,79.167 560.652,78.425 C562.623,77.658 564.297,76.634 565.965,74.965 C567.633,73.296 568.659,71.625 569.425,69.651 C570.167,67.743 570.674,65.562 570.82,62.369 C570.966,59.17 571,58.147 571,50 C571,41.851 570.966,40.831 570.82,37.631″></path></g></g></g></svg></div><div style=”padding-top: 8px;”> <div style=” color:#3897f0; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;”> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: 8px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: auto;”> <div style=” width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);”></div></div></div></a> <p style=” margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BpLy4xnH5Hs/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_blank”>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&#39;s maintained an asphyxiating stranglehold on the #1 senatorial spot — leaving Villar, Imee, Estrada, JPE and even the powerful Sara Duterte (who&#39;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&#39;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&#39;s consistently strong in all demographics from A to E. It&#39;s undeniable: she&#39;s rock solid. Quite impressive, if we&#39;re being completely honest.  Question: do you think Poe is the most popular senator of the last two decades?</a></p> <p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”>A post shared by <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/franco.mabanta/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;” target=”_blank”> Franco Cruz Mabanta</a> (@franco.mabanta) on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2018-10-21T05:59:43+00:00″>Oct 20, 2018 at 10:59pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src=”//www.instagram.com/embed.js”></script>

{/source}

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

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