Manila: The son and namesake of the Philippines’ late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is on track to win Monday’s presidential poll, after a massive misinformation campaign whitewashed the family’s past and smeared his main rival.
Leni Robredo, the incumbent vice president, is the last obstacle to the controversial clan achieving their goal of returning to the presidential palace they fled in disgrace in 1986 following a popular uprising.
Social media groups supporting Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s bid for the top job have bombarded Filipinos with false and misleading posts about Robredo on platforms where they rank among the world’s heaviest users.
A string of doctored photos and videos viewed tens of thousands of times have sought to portray Robredo, 57, as stupid, unfriendly towards voters, and a communist.
Dozens of other bogus claims targeting her have flooded social media.
Here are the five most shared posts debunked by AFP:
Pro-Marcos accounts that have sought to discredit Robredo as unintelligent and cold-hearted have had a huge impact online.
A clip from an interview with a Filipino journalist back in December 2016 shows Robredo looking baffled by a question over allegations she cheated Marcos Jr.
Robredo came from behind to narrowly beat Marcos Jr for the Philippines vice-presidency that year - which he then spent five years trying in vain to overturn.
The clip was posted on Facebook on February 19, less than two weeks after the presidential election campaign season kicked off, and has been viewed more than 78,000 times.
Similar posts were uncovered by AFP Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok.
AFP fact checkers debunked the posts, reporting that portions of the original interview with news programme TV Patrol had been omitted.
Before entering politics in 2013, Robredo worked as a lawyer for more than a decade representing battered women and poor farmers.
But a post on a pro-Marcos Facebook page in March quoted the Public Attorney’s Office as saying she had “handled zero cases”.
It was shared hundreds of times by the account named “Bbm-Sara Around the World 2022” that has 24,500 followers.
“So that’s why she has a clean record... literally no cases,” one user wrote.
The Facebook page features a manipulated header image of Marcos Jr and his running mate Sara Duterte wearing military hats, with a Philippine flag and cartoon-like images of a tiger and an eagle in the background.
The government’s law office told AFP fact checkers it did not issue the statement.
Even Robredo’s personal life has been the target of misinformation following the death of her husband.
Jesse Robredo, a respected cabinet member in former president Benigno Aquino’s administration, died in a plane crash in 2012.
Since Robredo won the vice-presidency in 2016, a photo has circulated in false posts claiming it shows her with a “secret first husband” who “also died in a mysterious plane crash”.
A Filipino couple living in the northern province of Pampanga told AFP fact checkers it was their wedding photo that was being shared.
“I wish people would respect other people’s privacy,” husband Daniel Canlas said.
Marcos supporters have repeatedly accused Robredo of voter fraud since the 2016 vice presidential contest - and even alleged that the national election agency was involved.
Pro-Marcos accounts claimed that a video posted on Facebook and TikTok showed a leaked ballot paper, which they said proved the Commission on Elections had cheated for Robredo.
The video was viewed more than a million times.
But a commission spokesman told AFP that the document, which was missing various features included on official election ballots, was only a sample.
Wrongly counted vote
After Filipinos living overseas began voting in April, a video showing a woman in Hong Kong complaining that her vote for Marcos Jr had been wrongly counted for Robredo went viral.
The clip was viewed tens of thousands of times on Facebook, but an AFP investigation found it had been doctored.
There was no mention of Robredo in the unedited version of the video, which had been circulating online since at least 2016.
The Commission on Elections told AFP it had not received complaints of wrongly counted votes during early overseas voting this year.