What to know about the historic Philippines election
11:30AM May 4, 2022
Hello, and welcome to the Reuters Institute from the global journalism seminar series. On Monday May the ninth the Philippines goes to the polls in what is shaping up one of the most historic elections in the country's history. It is a country that has gone through everything you can imagine that has characterized the 21st century so far, a populist precedent or kind of populist weaponized war on drugs and a cultural war, a kind of system that has led to huge political polarization, a massive flood of messaging and misinformation that has spread throughout the country on all sorts of platforms, including social media. And it has also generated some of the best journalism that we have ever seen. It's generated some of the most courageous journalists we've ever seen, including the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Maria ReSSA. We're really it's a really important topic to cover and we're really delighted today to be joined by Rajan Kobato, who has been the Washington Post Manila correspondent since December 2018. Before working for The Washington Post's Rajan was multiple platform reporter for CNN, Philippines and she also helps run a successful program for student journalists. Her year long investigation to abuse in churches was a finalist as well in the society of publishers HR awards. Welcome, Rajiv, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you. So much for having me, Amira and the Reuters Institute.
Could we start with the kind of overview please of what's going on in the elections? Would you tell us a little bit but who the main characters are and how this is playing out so far?
Okay. Definitely, you're right about that being a bit of a historic and consequential election this year, possibly one of the most consequential ones in recent history. It's a very crowded race to the presidency with around 10 candidates. But there are some people whom you may know have already. They're candidates who have global fame. There's just been boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. Not a new name to international waters. But there might also be other people who you might not be so familiar with, like Manila mayor is Conrado. So those are some of the people who are in the top for both Tokyo and Miranda are 40 Somethings with rags to riches stories. I'm sure you guys are all familiar with a cow from his career as an athlete. And he's juggled that with his work in Congress and the Senate before retiring last year. Miranda on the other hand, you know, truth over the showbiz nature of Philippine politics used to be an actor before he joined the local government. And then he became more popular after he became Manila Mayor on the feeding of former President for the post, and he was widely perceived to have cleaned up the city quote unquote. So both of the campaigns of McAllen Miranda have been interesting because in the country where politics is mostly dominated by powerful families or dynasties, it can be very difficult for upstart political was like that to enter the scene, but then these two candidates were able to make up for that because they do have star power. Okay. I was an athlete Miranda's and after, and they're also some of the candidates who can really say or brand themselves that as purport because they have experienced poverty, unlike a lot of elites in Philippine politics, but very quickly, analysts are definitely saying that the main story of the Philippine Election is how it's going to become a two way race between the top two with between the top two most popular candidates in surveys, and that's Ferdinand Marcos, Jr, the son of the late dictator and opposition candidate lennier bredow, the incumbent vice president and a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is most known for his very bloody war on drugs. So just to clear things up because it might be confusing to foreign watchers who are not familiar with the Philippines system, a president and vice president here are elected separately. So that's how it's possible that your brother can be a critic of the President, even though she's technically a member of the administration. That being said, Marcos Jr. was a former senator. And of course he is a Marcus and a bit of a history lesson you guys probably know that the family is quite notorious. It ruled the country's father with the country for two decades, including around nine years under a brutal period of martial law, and that period saw disappearances, detentions, killings and torture of 10s of 1000s of people as well as massive corruption. They're estimated to have stolen up to $10 billion from public coffers. And then they fled to Hawaii after the 1986 revolution. Read On the other hand, her background is a lot simpler. She is the wife of a former mayor of a city in a city in the Philippines. But after he died in a plane crash, she was propelled to the Congress in a grassroots campaign. And since then, she was able to rise up to the vice presidency, and she actually narrowly won the position in 2016 against Marcos Jr. So what's happening now is basically a rematch between the two. You're actually that's a bit of a rundown.
That's a brilliant summary. Thank you very much. What is it like covering this campaign as a reporter, because you've got celebrities who are unwilling to talk to the press, in many ways, I think Pakiya doesn't really want to do press interviews, and then you've got other other candidates who are from, you know, from the Marcos family but are trying very hard to play down their connection. So how do you tell the story of what's going on?
One of the things that have pretty much defined this election is really social media. So as we may have already seen in 2016, but it's more pronounced now. A lot of politicians basically can take it upon themselves to produce content that's favorable to them. So they don't necessarily need the press and we see that particularly, and Marcus Jr's campaign, the foreign correspondents association of the Philippines, which I'm a member of has just released the recent statements about our concern about how over individuals from over a dozen member organizations have not been able to get accreditation to cover his out. A cow I would say is one of the people who is more open to the press definitely. The the other candidates generally are as well, but for sure social media and the ability for anybody to create content about the certain politician has changed the game, for sure. Yeah.
So what's your response been to that beyond kind of asking for access and protesting when it's denied what else has been done?
In my particular case, I kind of did expect that that Marcos Jr may be difficult to cover precisely because it's very hard to get to get hold of him. Local press in particular may have experienced and if you guys may have seen this online actually because some videos have gone viral. Local press really struggled to basically get an interview from him like doorstep interviews, as they're called in the UK are called ambush interviews here. So they kind of have a really bad sound of the ear like the sound bit like an assault, right. But BBC is Howard Johnson, for example. Just recently, he doorstepped Mr. Marcos the ask why he wasn't doing public interviews or if he could be a good president. If he wasn't doing that, and Marcus just laughed and didn't answer the question. And when Howard posted that video, it just resulted in this crazy crazy barrage of hate for him and for the journalists or the for the journalists, like and that doesn't even translate to the death threats actually. Or death wishes. So how are we preparing and responding to that? Um, definitely we are talking about it as organizations. You know, off the outside the work, we, especially during World Press Freedom Day, we're trying to discuss what else we can do to organize I think definitely Filipino journalists need a bit of help in the digital security front, especially because troll farms are so prevalent here. So that's one way Definitely the preparing. But because it was so hard. How I prepared personally was because it was so hard to cover him in the physical sense that this trailing historys without the clearance schedule, I looked at some other evidence which which was a trail that I could find, which was the online presence of Marcos Jr. And what came out of that report was a deep dive into historical revisionism which we published on the post and where we basically spoke to researchers and public relations industry insiders, who talked about how the rehabilitation of the Marquess name is the product of a decade's long, well funded, well planned PR campaign. Yeah, and when we published that story, it made a bit of a splash and I got also a lot of hate for that from a lot of suspicious accounts online as well. But yeah, it seems to be steadily becoming something to expect if you're a journalist in the Philippines. I'm really
really sorry. You aren't doing that. Let me just stay on it for a while. Firstly, are you okay?
That's a very good question. To be honest. I haven't really sat down and thought about that yet, because I've been so busy with the Russia over election. Coverage. But of course, I was definitely it's hard to say that you you get used to it because if you really don't, especially for us women, right. There is a certain sense of violation that comes with with that invasion of space even if the space is just your your inbox write a lot of remarks I would say we're definitely sexist in nature, a lot of words like press the to Horn the list. I kind of sat on it for a couple of days to be honest. And this is around my third Harassment campaign by Harassment campaign. I mean, it's just the spirit of time, which I kind of suspect and I'm sorry to have shorts definitely engineered by a troll farm because the messages are sent up roughly the same times. So there's definitely a window in which the messages come in. And then the messages are mostly scripted the attack your credibility, like they go by. There is a certain messaging that comes with it, right. I don't doubt that some of those are real people, but there are some that are definitely suspicious. So this is my third Harassment campaign. And this time around, I kind of tried to busy myself, because I didn't want to sit in my sip and be steeped in my thoughts and the online vitriol so the very next day I stepped outside and I went on field coverage and did interviews just to get that off my mind. And when I came back to my computer, I kind of thought that for the first time instead of you know, just ignoring it, as I usually did, that I would kind of record that and do a bit of a voiceover and walk people through what my inbox is like. And that post also made a bit of a splash, obviously not as viral as the initial as the initial share of the article, but for people who were in my following I think it definitely let them in on what it's like to be a journalist in the Philippine
postal response, were people supportive or shocked.
Definitely people were supportive. And I'm very grateful I would say because people I think in my direct circles I am very just grateful for the moral support that I'm surrounded by. People were checking in on me, although, of course I've been so busy because of election campaign coverage, right? But for a lot of people they were even this despite all of this they were quite shocked. But still one thing I think that really drove home the point was because when I scrolled down the inbox, and they caught all of this in a screen recording, you could see the spam messages that I had received from my previous harassment campaigns, napkin 2021 2020. And you could see that the bunch of those accounts had been suspended. They were just blank accounts, which were very telling that they were probably taken down for coordinated inauthentic behavior. I think that was the first time that a lot of people saw that there was a very real possibility that a bunch of these accounts were generated and not for you at all.
And did you report any anything to the authorities at all?
Um, my bureau chief was definitely aware of this I'm still crafting. I'm still crafting the report the face book. Oh, yeah. Um, so that's something I'm working on as well. The foreign Correspondents Association has drafted has in its statement said or called on social media to really respond to attacks like these because the case was quite similar with Howard Johnson, the BBC, as well as with another colleague of ours who had experienced a barrage of harassment as well.
What do you think has happened in the Philippines for this to become such a regular occurrence this kind of pile on I know, that the you know, the President de Tete has has very been been very critical of the press and this kind of weaponization of, of troll farms, but it strikes me that there's something broken in the kind of connection between journalism and the public in many cases. as well. And what do you think's going on there?
Yeah, the rapid deterioration. The trust and the free press, definitely. The hostile administration of President that there there has been a factor but the fact that the theory that so quickly is also telling of, I guess the faults of the press and being able to adjust to this digital landscape and then being able to fill out its audiences. The Philippines has been traditionally known especially after martial law, to be one of the freest presses in Asia and look where we are now we're still we score so high on the Infinity index, we're still considered to be one of consistently one of the worst places in the world to be a journalist. There is a generation gap in newsrooms that I think was a factor because we didn't get to migrate the digital space as fast enough. And we're seeing that even now with new spaces like tick tock, and with how YouTube has taken hold even though YouTube is a bit of an old space but it's steadily year becoming According to research, one of the favorite places for Filipino audiences to go. Definitely where we've stuck, I think, to a traditional media model for quite a long time we've clung on to that and influencers have have taken over and we see that now in the election campaign because a political client can just hire an influencer and the influencer can say whatever they want, but we wouldn't know whether or not that the influencer is on the politicians a role or not because they could package their content as organic. Right. So that's basically one of the things definitely that has, that has helped them to make things harder for the press. But there's
I feel like I want to frame your words and put them on a wall. But this is why digital innovation matters. And it's like, once you lose people, you lose the entire country. Staying on that point on what politicians are doing on social media. Could you talk us through a little bit about what how they using social media for their campaigns, so you've mentioned influencer buying in influencers, what else is going on in that space?
A lot of very interesting trends and I would even even say innovations are taking place in the Philippines. So definitely you have influencers under that. One thing, according to a public relations strategist is that politicians tend to hire micro influencers, right as opposed to bigger influencers, micro influencers, meaning that these people whom they call key opinion leaders, are key online leaders or something to that effect that there are basically people who may have a following of just a few 1000s, but it could be a loyal following. It could be a very targeted following. So when I was looking at micro influencers, who are pro Marcos and picked up for example, there would be people from the LGBTQ community, there would be people who there was would be someone who's like a public school teacher. So basically, these could be people who come from different sectors and they would politicians who need to basically market themselves to a certain audience would pick a micro influencer who fits into that profile. So that's one trend that we're seeing. Another one is the buying and the buying and selling of Facebook pages and groups. So one sneaky thing that political operators have been doing is basically buying pages and groups that have nothing to do with politics, say celebrity fan pages, or entertainment, or history enthusiasts groups, and then suddenly the groups would change into something with a political agenda. So if you're somebody who is a completely undiscerning online person, you may be scrolling through your feed and then suddenly you see a plug for a certain politician and you're like, when did I like this page? I did not. remember liking it, but you slowly get a steady feed of content from this page grew, and the prices for this stuff could actually be really cheap. ABS CBN a local broadcaster had an investigation of how you could actually buy a page through Facebook marketplace, but they could also go pretty high because there was a TV show host who also works for ABS CBN, who shared on Twitter that he got an offer to sell his fan page for 1 million pesos, and the fanpage had around 2 million followers. So that's how high these prices can go. And that's how money that the machinery can be.
That's really interesting. Thank you. Maria Reza has talked about this for years and has highlighted the kind of the Miss function of the digital space of the Philippines and said very clearly you know what's happening in the Philippines will come for the rest of the world soon enough and she's been right on on this. So this is really, really a crucial point, which is why I asked you because I think it's something new people need to look out for everywhere. I'm gonna go to the journalist fellows in the room next, I think Hannah wanted to ask one question from that.
Thank you so much for being with us. I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about how the international attention that Maria ReSSA has gotten has affected the local media landscape. I imagine they can both be a blessing and a curse to have somebody become an icon like she has become.
That's a pretty good question. Definitely. Maria is quite an icon here in the Philippines. Um, but there have been so many cases against her that just make it so hard. I guess for everyone. I mean, a lot of basically a lot of newsrooms locally. And I guess I can say this because I'm a Foreign presser in the midst have been self censoring. Because of what has happened throughout there as well as what has happened the ABS CBN which is the biggest broadcaster for context, in case some of you guys are not familiar with the case, ABS CBN was stripped off its franchise its franchise was not renewed. And it's because the Philippines has this weird model where Congress has to, you know, grab grant permissions for these big media organizations to operate. And of course, the press and the industry and advocates knew that this was a way of stifling freedom of speech, but because it was a congress decision, you know, hidden behind, hidden behind the red tape but reasoning and stuff like that. Basically people politicians were saying that it was you know, pretty much like a paperwork reasoning or tax reasoning, etc. Even though ABS CBN was was pretty much clear of its tax payments. So cases like that, and grappler both rafter and ABS CBN have been caused for a lot of self censorship, by local newsrooms, and in some ways, that is also the it's one of the worst kinds of censorship because you stop yourself before you even you even get the ask. Right. So of course, like Maria is great and all but we definitely need more support, as well. We look up to her definitely as an as for all the work that she's doing for all the lobbying that she's doing. But local journalists on the ground they are in hot water, like Yeah, pretty much. I'm not sure that answers here. I hope that answers
absolutely destined. It's really insightful. What kind of support do local journalists underground need?
Um, definitely, digital security is one. Because, like I mentioned earlier, you're very vulnerable. To harassment with that. And a lot of local news sites have experienced distributed denial of service attacks hacking, as well. individual journalists have also been hacked. And in a couple of cases, or in one, one recent case, freelance journalist was hacked and then his account started spewing promarkers propaganda. So definitely will need more help on that front. One of the difficult things as well that that makes it hard for local newsrooms to operate in the Philippines is that is because of business models. And solutions in the Philippines are not that strong, to be honest. So there is a lot of influence still from business owners. And really, that's where a lot of the self censorship or censorship can come can come from. So Maria definitely cannot be alone in this fight. We have to find ways to help her out as well. Yeah.
Thank you. Thanks very much. And good, good pool in the room.
Hello. Sorry, you're just on mute. Thank you. It's lovely to get your input. I was a political journalist myself, and I'm going to need to sit in the run up to election specifically. I guess what I've what I find quite interesting is the vast use of social media in the run up to your campaign. And it's clear that in some systems you mentioned in the past that some mainstream media outlets have been blocked from covering certain press conferences, where social media influences have not how has the media in general some media titles responded what can you still do to ensure you play a role in not only informing the public but also that the news is accurate and and there is no misinformation which can be easily manipulated on social media? What have you what can you do in this object?
There are definitely some efforts on the ground already to address that. But whether or not the will really make an effect or impact on the elections or whether or not it's reached enough audiences. Still, it remains to be seen, but one of the ways that journalists have been organizing are fact checking initiatives that go across the board. So they're fact checking coalition's. Or things like or initiatives like facts for CH M, as well as Viber channels and other Facebook groups where people can flag this information. And then they can be run through a fact checker or people can respond. So that's definitely one of the ways I've noticed as well that these fact checking initiatives are stepping up their game in terms of collaborating with creatives and influencers who have like minded values to create a more creative stuff that explains fact checking to a general audience. So definitely those are some things that were done. In the run up to the elections. But one of the things about this election in particular is that it's a race against time, because the disinformation has been seated there for such a long time. Like it has just, you know, been allowed to stay up on these sites and just be discovered by whoever goes through Google or YouTube or Facebook. And it's really borrowed itself into the subconscious of a lot of people. So whether or not the the fact checking the definitely great creative fact checking initiatives are making a dent. We'll we'll see, I think in the upcoming elections.
You're describing a media space where the media is basically not visible where it's not present where you know, they're not allowed into many press conferences, Marcos can prefers YouTubers and Tiktok influencers and then fact checkers and influencers are kind of combating misinformation. It's like it's quite hard to see whether journalists for the local press are able to operate.
It's quite difficult. Definitely. In our statement, we kind of pointed out how, yeah, we don't get accreditation, in some cases, according to people who are on the ground schedules have been withheld. There are we like the ways that some journalists Galois that this definitely to talk with each other and to find other ways of covering I guess, you have to be creative. You have to be quick footed and sometimes the non answer is the answer. Like in Howard Johnson's case, but definitely we can. We can keep at this forever. And the presidential candidate, especially if he's the leading one who might become head of state, he can stay in an echo chamber forever. So definitely one of the things that the press worries about in the event of a mark was presidency is the further institutionalization of these propagandists who are completely hyper partisan who hate the press who sow distrust for the mainstream media. There have been there have definitely been talks among the press about how we can push back. But we can't really do that so effectively without the help of social media platforms, because they're the ones who basically enable these propagandists to operate and then some cases the propagandists even profit off of the social media platforms business model. So that's definitely one thing that puts us in a sticky spot. Yeah,
thank you should prover to kind of follow on.
Hi. Oh, nice to hear what you said. About influencers and their role. Why is it to ask does this widespread use of social media mean that there's more citizen journalism, and just in terms of like, who's consuming your content, like, are people listening to the influencers more than traditional media?
So I just repeat because some other smo citizen journalism as a result of this online space, and are people listening to the influences more than traditional media?
Actually, people spent a lot for the traditional media, I would say in moments of disaster like typhoons, and the Philippines is always fraught with climate crisis. Emergencies. So every day for wind recently, especially ever since ABS CBN was taken off air, a lot of people would be in the dark about how to cover and these are the types of stuff that kind of make people realize, you know, every rainy season that oh, maybe this is why the mainstream media is important because that's the type of things an influencer isn't trained the copper, right? So definitely, that's one spot where people do turn to the media for that kind of information. But it's also I guess, an opportunity for the press to assert themselves as the entity to go to to be trusted. Unfortunately, because everything is so polarizing, now, like Marcus is such a divisive candidate, even though he packages himself to be the Unity guy. That's one of his main slogans for themes for this campaign. Because it's such a divisive and polarizing atmosphere, there are a lot of people who actually would not listen to the press and who do prefer to listen to the loggers because they've been so steeped in confirmation bias already. It's going to be very difficult to undo and it will also be the job of people surrounding them or people in communities, or communities, journalists as well to engage with these types of audiences directly. One thing that Maria Reza had warned about when we had a conversation earlier this year was that this kind of online hate would help the modify behavior. We've seen that in the US right with as a January insurrection. In the Philippines, we can see that it's that bad. Just yeah but we are seeing little bits and pieces or preview that kind of possible violence on the campaign trail for the opposition, because one of the opposition's ways of campaigning is going door to door and talking to people face to face. It's supposed to be a way to counter app how people don't talk online anymore because everyone's stuck in an echo chamber. So it's strategic. It's meant to strike up genuine conversation, and basically be a lot of volunteers have found out that they can still change a lot of minds and that a lot of people are actually still open to political conversation that several but there have been a few, a few instances or was not really a few but scattered or just few relative to the people who are open to conversation. But there have been instances of people who are outright violent or who threaten the threaten and heckle volunteers who basically don't want to who basically don't want to talk at all who believe you know, the who believe the press is and facts are not real. And those are some of the ways we already see that behavior modification modification working. So that's definitely something that might grow even more in the next six years in the vegetable markets presidency.
Thanks very much, Robin. Your question follows on very nicely. Yeah,
thank you. Um, I was wondering, this is quite a big year globally for elections. And I would have been there. There were things that are happening right now in the Philippines, that that reporters in other countries might kind of look out for when it comes when it comes down to their elections, especially with populism, like covering populism because a lot of reporters will obviously won't have covered an election for maybe four or five years. And, you know, a lot can change at that time, especially in the social media.
Okay, um, one interesting thing, especially in terms of populism is that President that Thursday is practically retiring having with his popularity, having survived the drug war, which was of course very controversial, but still somehow very popular policy, as well as pandemic response, even though a lot of people had so many complaints about a pandemic response, and in some ways, it was also because, or, in part, at least, because the President was quite couched as well. He was surrounded by a whole communications machinery. And there were troll farms that were that that people who raise complaints and such. I'm not sure to what extent that's helped shape public opinion. But definitely, that probably it probably has because his daughter is one of the is practically the the survey topper for the vice presidency alongside Marcos Jr. That's one other thing to watch out for, because that fandom is definitely the one to beat in the Philippines. They're expected to further cement dynasty rule and some human rights and basically, policy analysts worry that a Marcus the third, the tandem both being children of straw man, this is just going to weaken institutions and weaken democracy. On the other hand, the opposition candidate Leni Robredo, is running on a theme of radical love which you guys may have heard previously from Turkey. It was used by the opposition against Erdogan. And now they're translating that to a local like Filipino context. So her campaign is actually very lively. It's a volunteer driven, and it's unmatched, like you have millions like around 2 million volunteers going house to house producing content for free fighting trolls for free. You have movie stars going on these campaigns rock stars, playing her rallies for free. It's something that is definitely something to watch out for. Because even though she's behind in the surveys, it shows that her following is willing to fight for her. And it is a rough estimate probably of the people who are willing to show up and have her back. If Marquess does anything wrong, right. So that's, that's gonna be really interesting. Some analysts think that it's going to be a very close race, even though the surgeries look a bit bad at the moment. But if she manages to pull off a photofinish, it's definitely going to be a model for other countries to look at for a future after populism. Like how you can you know, utilize that radical love.
Tell me a little bit more about the radical left talked about the volunteers and the liveliness of the campaign. What's the messaging?
That definitely the radical love messaging has been about listening to supporters of populist as opposed to talking over them. So that's something that we saw in Turkey, and rebreathers campaigners that doesn't mean that the borrowed directly from that label because definitely, you know, you can't, you can't beat them by butting heads with them outright, especially because these populists are so popular. You know, like there's a reason why they seem to resonate with people. Um, one other thing about this type of campaign is that it ought to, it seems that it ought to emphasize gut issues, more common issues more so a lot of stuff that we're brothers emphasizing really has to do with jobs really has to do with agriculture, gut issues, economy like the people can feel, and that will trickle down. Because if you talk about stuff like the drug war, like human rights, there seems to be a kind of the sensitization to it. And the kind of moralistic high ground that people who are of course, that the that the opposition previously would, you know, just kind of be frustrated by it like, why why are why are people why do people not get human rights violations are bad, but basically for some sectors of the population? They don't feel it out, right. Like, there is a bit of a detachment because oh, this happened to me that happened to my family. And you can't make them care right away. So that's definitely one of the things that the radical love campaign tries to point out, like you have to meet people where they are. You can't you can't talk down to them or kind of take a moral high horse. You explain these issues once you really want to talk to them about what their own issues are.
It sounds eminently sensible to me. Yeah.
And it's so hard to do right because of social media has conditioned us basically to be so divisive. If you disagree, with someone, it's so easy to unfriend them, right. Um, but yeah, so definitely, those are some of the thrusts of the campaign. But of course, the campaign has also been under a lot of attack by this information. There are just lots of crazy conspiracy theories about your bread though. How she is supposedly like the communists. There's one crazy theory that she killed her husband. So she's definitely a target of that and whether her volunteers will be able to debunk enough of those in time for the elections. We'll see.
What do you see journalism happening to journalists in the Philippines if Marcos wins, and then also if libretto wins?
Okay, um, definitely. Like I mentioned earlier, if under a possible Marcus presidency we can probably expect that propagandists hype hyper partisan influencers will be more empowered and that will make the job more difficult for journalists. We're very worried about access of course, like like we mentioned in the recent press statement that we released, because how a candidate acts on the campaign trail is pretty much a window of how he's going to govern, right. And if just now it's very hard for us to get comment on the content on the various controversies surrounding Mr. Marcos. Yeah, it's just going to get harder as time goes by. We're not expecting a lot of freedom of information, if ever, that's going to be the case. So in the event of a Roberto Roberto presidency, I think it's fair to say that a lot of the press are going are expecting that it's going to be friendlier. Her camp has been more open to the press, definitely more understanding, and she's open to criticism as well. So definitely that's that's something I think not that the press is cool. But yeah, so that's that's one thing that I kind of noticed and that I mentioned in the forum the other day, is that I think that there's something that the press can learn from the volunteer driven, creative content that is coming out of real bread this campaign because there's so many ads that come out for her that are basically done pro bono by all these creatives, these musicians and a lot of that counters the disinformation against her or tries to paint her in a positive light, etc. And then kind of wondering how you can channel that and energy into a nonpartisan project, like restoring public trust in the media. So I think definitely, we could look at how creatives are are baking the campaign and see what we can learn in terms of public relations for the breast, the restore trust in the institution.
That'd be really interesting for him to have. I mean, talk a little bit about let me Robredo because she's a woman and I'm very dominant male dominated space and you've also talked about as have many women, the kind of very gendered nature of attacks and disinformation that spread about her. So firstly, what kind of attacks without asking you to repeat you know, repeat kinds of rumors or, or things you know what, what's the nature of the attacks against her and crucially, what's her role in the campaign have there been idea you know, there's been a suggestion that possibly she steps aside to let others
Yeah, um, so the attacks against her I've mentioned some examples earlier can can become very absurd. But definitely one of the things that factors have noticed this common is spliced video of how she speaks to make her look quote unquote stupid basically, or incapable of leading like she's portrayed to have a stutter or not. Or not really think straight when she's sharing her ideas, which is actually pretty far from my how she conducts herself when she's when she does public speaking. She also attends all the debates which all the crucial debates which Marcus Jr has opted out of but on social media, there is an alternate universe where you will see people really believe that she she is up in the air. That's the Filipino the translation for the Filipino word for it. One, particularly below the belt attack was actually targeted not against her but against her daughters. It was a manufactured scandal pretty much sexual in nature. And according to one veteran public relations strategist, it has been the dirtiest tactic that he has seen from all the elections that he has handled. Once that came out, or news of that broke out and they call platforms to take down these non existent videos. But which relabeled with her daughter's names there was this troll farm line of thought that went around claiming that her own cam had manufactured that video in order to get attention or something like that. And there were there was a section of people I think, would want this line of thought. So those are some of the, you know, sexist ways. We see things playing out. The other thing that Meera mentioned is was an interesting development where there were were there were the survey runners up basically Miranda included McHale opted out interestingly, being Luxan, the former, a former police general who is also running for president as well as another, as well as another, another guy as well. They had the joint press conference where they were basically you're iterating that they wouldn't step out of the race. And the kind of tone of that was that they were feelers from, from Roberto's comp that were that were asking them or implying if they would step out so that you know, some of the votes could shift so that someone could win or have a better chance at winning against Marcos. So in this particular press conference, which was kind of widely pandered to be a bit of a sausage fest or a bit of a, you know, like, men patting each other on the back by some analysts. mirando kind of went on to say that it was her bread, the who should withdraw. And of course, a lot of a lot of her supporters. Analysts as well said that that makes no logical sense because she's the second person in the surveys. She's the one was the most chances of beating Marcos. So why are you asking her to withdraw? And of course, the undertone for that was Well, it's because she's a woman and, you know, there is a sense of entitlement that's going around. And that was definitely a discussion for that new cycle.
Thank you very much. I'm Paula.
I am founder. And I would like to ask you about you mentioned it briefly, the war on drugs from the dead. It was such a brutal policy and lab so many victims. So I would like to ask you, if you tell us more about how that issue has been part of the campaign. And also there is some hope for justice against indicators of people were victims. of that war.
Okay, are really good question. So the drug war policy, in theory minus the killings was actually popular in the Philippines. And right now, the kind of news stories have evolved from covering the nightly killings and the drug war two aftermath stories, stories about trauma and such. It's very different until now, we're still finding stuff out about the drug war because some of the recent stories have been about how these drug war victims are the remains of these drug war victims. Their cemetery Rambo is up so they're being assumed the remains are being assumed out of cemeteries. And there has been a forensic pathologist who looked into some of these bodies belatedly, more recently, and she found out that a bunch of these victims have basically been listed in their medical certificates as having died of natural causes, even though their remains really show evidence of homicide. So we're, we're still learning new stuff about the drug war, even up until now, whether or not there's going to be justice, it will probably depend on who the next President will be. Because Marcos Jr. has definitely promised to continue the drug war, but a lot of experts aren't expecting him to necessarily be as iron fisted as his father or as president, but they're there. But it's quite clear especially if his running mate started that there that is also next to him in power, that there will hardly be any accountability for the third they're in the possible Marcus that their their presidency vice presidency. They can shield him basically from the International Criminal Court. So that's definitely one thing to watch out for. Definitely, rather is more likely to hold them to heart because she's been a vocal critic of the drug war from the start.
Thank you. I'm looking at international coverage of the media and this is possibly the last question to tell you a long time but how, you know, what do you think of international coverage of the Philippines? Generally enough, the election campaign in particular and I know that you know, you're working for an international media outlet, so you don't need to necessarily talk about your employers, but just overall as someone from the Philippines, what do you have? Firstly, how do you view the coverage? And what will be useful to be reported?
Um, you know, one thing that I did notice going around posts from Filipino in Filipino circles is that people use international coverage currently. The show marca supporting friends that this is how the world sees us. Um, because, like I mentioned earlier, we kind of are pretty much in a campaign that's steeped in this information. It's a real, upside down alternative universe where leftists arrive, people don't believe in this long history of established corruption, which has already been accepted as fact. In the worldwide I m and which is caught which is on record basically, through courts through you know, at the UN etc. So, people have been compiling a lot of international headlines and saying, Guys, this is how the world sees. So it's kind of been in that sense. I think if their national coverage has been helpful and sobering, up driving home, how, you know, these are the this is what's going on. Moving forward, what should the international media look at also, especially if it's going to be a fraught time for the local press in the coming month? Um, and it's always been fraught, to be honest in the Philippines. I mean, whoever President even under Aquino, there's always been a culture of long running impunity here. That's not exclusive to just one president. But definitely we will need the help of international journalists to complement the work that local journalists do because local journalists have to care about access. They have to care you know about talking to these sources on a regular basis. But journalists from abroad don't necessarily have to care about that, which is why a lot of the interesting stuff that has come out of the Philippines that has made a bit of a splash would be foreign documentaries like kingmaker. 1000 cuts starting where your ESA right um, but definitely, I think I think Filipinos would be more open to this button. They would also be open to I guess. stories where you ask Filipinos themselves like oh, what are the gaps in coverage? What are the stuff you cannot cover? or restricted from that might be more might be more easier for an international for or for a journalist with an international background? The cover so
someone from the Philippines what are those topics? What are their stories?
Okay, um, definitely one of the top of my off the top of my head because I think I I'm kind of wondering what the share without the revealing all of the story pictures I have to be honest, um, but definitely I think that digital workers roam more stuff on troll farms, more stuff on how political machinery operates. I think Filipinos find that fascinating, but it's very difficult for them to access some responses to my previous story, for example, would be we'd love to see a documentary of this. So I think that that's one area that probably might be helpful for international waters to look at because while local people might be able to cover it, they might also have to deal with political clients on a regular basis. Yeah, the political clients with these troll farms. So maybe that's one thing that we can look at. What else is well, um, stuff like press censorship, I think because, definitely some, there has been a train of thought among locals about documentaries like the king maker and 1000 cuts are quote, unquote, not enough, because they're really tailored for foreign audiences, right. So my personal thought is that I think each production has its own audience. So definitely, when you look at literature, it can you can kind of also see or take a look at what are the leads that weren't really pursued in those documentaries and then come up with stories that would be able to fill in that gap. One thing for example, that we have yet to see really clear documentation on which I think would be interesting personally, would be the shutdown of ABS CBN. I think that would greatly complement 1000 cuts cuts which covered the Doppler Rappler is a much smaller newsroom. And of course, they're fighting such a crucial battle. ABS CBN was an 11,000 employees strong newsroom, and so many people lost their job isn't. That's definitely one thing that I think would be interesting to look at.
Janice, thank you. So much. It's been a really, really fascinating hour. Caitlin, would you like to ask your final question because you've put so much work into this.
i You said earlier that there was a multimillion pound PR campaign for Marcos and that he's going by the nickname BRB so as not to draw attention to as dictatorial history heritage. I've noticed throughout the seminar you've said Mark markers, markers markers, you never call them BRB, even though popularly that's now his name. You do that on purpose.
You need vVM right? Yeah,
maybe? Yeah. Thanks.
Yeah, to be honest, um, yes, because I think that's a habit that some of my colleagues as well have picked up and it's very interesting because definitely the last name comes with a lot of baggage. Right. And one of the faults I guess, of the Philippine media, the Philippine education system, the institutions, the courts, is that we haven't really managed to hold the family to account we haven't been able to pass on the collective memory of collective trauma. It just hasn't been translated that well. So I guess in my own little way, because words matter. Um, I would also kind of like the drive home that one of the things that definitely make this election unique is that it is a Marcus running. It's like history. All over again. But you know, yes or five, but they are fit for a new generation option you but this time around, what are we going to do with it? Is the question.
Thank you. That's brilliant answer and a brilliant note just to end on. Words matter. What are we going to do with what what our history is what our future will be? Please take care of yourself in the next few weeks months. And we're, you know, admiring you wholeheartedly from a distance for your reporting and for your courage and stay safe and we'll watch out for the results next week as well and take care and thank you all so much for your time.