No, the biggest election fraud wasn’t on election day
It was a television moment that no one even dared to imagine after a historical revolt that ended a dictator’s rule: a 92-year old Imelda escorting his son, Bongbong, at the Congressional complex built under her husband’s regime, as House leaders proclaim him as the newly-elected President of the Philippines. Many have not expected this to happen – to witness two Marcoses being sworn into the highest seat in a lifetime: our grandparents who had lived through the atrocities of the martial law era, journalists who covered a historical uprising in the peaceful 1986 revolution, activists who fought tooth and nail decades ago to tear down a dictator’s regime. It seemed like a night terror we all don’t want to dream of – except that you are wide awake, seeing a once impossible scenario unfolding right before your eyes.
Many of us might have been wondering how did it lead to this far-fetched reality. Perhaps, we have an entire electoral system and poll commission to blame: the flawed system that allows candidates facing a stack of disqualification petitions to run for office, the lack of political dynasty reforms that enables the same faces and names of injustice, the poll body that makes no move on blatant election fraud, from vote-buying to thousands of failed vote-counting machines on election day. But all these long-standing problems in our electoral system are only a chunk of how the younger Marcos secured a whopping “majority” among over 31 million Filipinos: the years-long foundation of lies, the persistent attempts of historical distortion and revisionism, and constant attacks to truth are the Marcoses’ biggest political tactic to return to Malacanañg.
As early as 2014, two years ahead of the vice-presidential race where Marcos Jr. lost by a slim margin, there have already been several attempts to malign facts and distort history about the injustices during his father’s regime. From distorting the truth about their family’s ill-gotten wealth, framing the Marcos era as the ‘golden age’ in Philippine history to launching countless lies and propaganda against his toughest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, the disinformation machinery of the Marcoses has become a long-existing business even before the elections, even going as far as allegedly putting up troll farms that he vehemently denied. In fact, a 2022 study has shown that Marcos Jr. is the primary beneficiary of disinformation narratives in social media, contrary to the image he’s been portraying as a victim of supposed falsehoods against his family – turning the table for years by leading a campaign driven by lies and deception.
the biggest electoral fraud in this elections didn’t happen on election day: it was during the years where Marcos, his family and his enablers built a machinery of lies, distorted truth and history, and warped all the narratives against them to reclaim power.
People have not just been fooled and deceived in a blink of an eye – they have been for years, they are now, and they will be one if we don’t fight for and safeguard the truth.
Now that disinformation has brought unquantifiable damages to the country’s information ecosystem, holding the line and standing together in upholding the right narratives of our history becomes a more prevailing challenge. How do you fight an army of disinformation architects when there are institutions, influencers, and even members of the press amplifying lies and deception? To fight disinformation does not only require courage and knowledge to stand up for truth.
To put a halt on the circulation of lies requires a one whole system that holds disinformation propagators accountable, a system that punishes institutions that spearhead the dispersion of falsehoods, a system that provides strong content policing to never let disinformation reach anyone’s feed.
At a time where people are confused with basic facts of history, fact-checking initiatives can only do so much to shelter our home of truth. We need institutions like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and among others to bolster its content policing efforts to disable the distortion and reinvention of stories about our history. We need concrete legislative measures that penalize disinformation propagators to make them responsible for their actions. The lack of an organized system and policies on disinformation for years majorly played in Marcos’ impending return to Malacañang. As long as the system enables him and his architects to breed and cultivate falsehoods, our truth and democracy remain at a huge collapse.
Needless to say, disinformation will be the biggest arm of the Marcoses in the next six years of his rule. So how do we defeat an army of disinformation architects? Building an army of truth upholders by putting up together a system that makes no room for lies to prosper. The answer is pretty obvious, but it is one hell of a challenge to attain.