Philippines shifts election battle to social media as COVID-19 curbs campaign | world news

By Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – Campaigning for the Philippines’ general election officially kicks off on Tuesday, with COVID-19 curtailing traditional fanfare and large rallies and emphasizing social media as a key battleground for the May 9 contest.

As with the 2016 polls that catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, social media will be crucial in the build-up to the three-month-long election, while platforms will be under pressure to tackle the rampant misinformation that has intensified in the Philippines these days. years, resulting in hate campaigns. and the deepening of social divisions.

The pandemic has upended the campaign for thousands of positions, from president to city council positions, with candidates moving their activities online to reach a population that ranks among the world’s biggest consumers of social media.

Marie Fatima Gaw, a communications research professor at the University of the Philippines, said social media was a crucial democratic space but had become “hyper partisan”, with political content hidden everywhere and insufficient blocking of inauthentic material.

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“The importance of social media is now exponential,” she added.

It has been a vital tool especially for Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the former dictator of the 1970s and 1980s, whose harsh rule has defined recent Philippine history.

Marcos is the clear frontrunner for the presidency and is backed by a massive social media campaign, one that critics say is trying to rewrite the family’s controversial history.

The limits on large gatherings come with the Philippines lagging behind with its COVID-19 vaccinations outside of urban centers, with half of the 110 million people vaccinated so far, and the campaign is underway just weeks after a record streak of daily infections.

About 67.5 million Filipinos are eligible to vote, including 1.7 million overseas, in an election for a president, vice president, about 300 legislators and about 18,000 local government positions.

Besides Marcos, other presidential candidates include boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao 30, Vice President Leni Robredo run-president-2022-2021-10-07, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso and Senator Panfilo Lacson

Duterte is not allowed to run for a second term, but his popular daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, could see some of her support shifted to Marcos, with whom she will run alongside his bid for the presidency. vice-presidency.

The election to choose who will lead the country for the next six years will also be closely watched by investors, with a huge task ahead to rebuild an economy that has gone from one of Asia’s fastest growing countries to the recording one of its steepest contractions at 9.6% in 2020.

“What investors really want is for us to have a clean and honest election where people will actually accept the outcome, that there’s no cheating, that’s the will of the people,” April said. Lee Tan, head of research at COL Financial.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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