Manila, Philippines – Francis Gealogo is a seasoned educational with a PhD in Philippine historical past who has been instructing the topic for 35 years. However a number of the instructing he has accomplished recently has not been within the classroom or to his typical college students.
Gealogo, who heads the historical past division on the Ateneo De Manila College and has printed greater than 70 analysis papers, is now taking his courses to social media. The 56-year-old historian stated he joined Twitter late final yr and launched an account on TikTok in March as a result of he was involved a few rising wave of disinformation about his nation’s historical past.
“We should always not let peddlers of pretend historical past stay dominant in these new realms,” Gealogo instructed Al Jazeera, somewhat bashful about venturing onto social media at his age.
With Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr about to be sworn into workplace because the Philippines subsequent president on Thursday, historical past has emerged on the centre of political conflicts within the Philippines.
Marcos Jr, the 64-year-old son and namesake of the late Philippine chief, Ferdinand Marcos, gained the presidency on the again of what historians and analysts like Gealogo, have stated was a years-long and well-organised marketing campaign that sought to whitewash his father’s brutal legacy. The late Marcos, who dominated the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, had declared martial regulation in 1972, and Amnesty Worldwide stated it documented 3,257 political killings throughout that point. Some 70,000 individuals have been additionally incarcerated and 1000’s have been tortured. The Philippine Supreme Court docket, in the meantime, discovered that the Marcos household plundered a minimum of $658m from state coffers because the nation’s debt mounted and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lived in excessive poverty.
Public anger on the Marcos’s abuses and corruption coalesced right into a “Folks’s Energy” rebellion in 1986, throughout which the president was toppled and compelled to flee to Hawaii, the place he died three years later.
Regardless of this historic file, Marcos Jr, who will take workplace on the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of martial regulation, has used social media to rewrite historical past, downplaying martial law-era atrocities and portraying his father’s tenure as a “golden age” for the Philippines. In a web based interview earlier this yr, Marcos Jr stated his father ushered the Philippines into the “trendy world”, and a day after the election, he visited his father’s grave and launched a press release calling the late president his “inspiration” who “taught him the worth and which means of true management”.
‘Tsunami of disinformation’
Diosa Labiste, a professor on the College of the Philippines’ Faculty of Mass Communication, stated there was a “bombardment” on-line of “outright lies” about Marcos’s legacy. “These distortions have been meant to make Marcos Jr win,” stated Labiste, who has been fact-checking social media posts for the final two elections as one of many consultants behind the Google- and Meta-funded coalition Tsek.ph. “And naturally, these have been massively shared by a community of disseminators.”
These posts included a video, which claimed that no person was arrested in the course of the martial regulation interval, collected greater than 187 million views by the beginning of the official election interval on February 8, 2022. One other submit that claimed victims of martial regulation fabricated accounts of human rights abuses to extort reparations from the state was posted in 514 Fb teams and considered greater than 89 million occasions.
“Mixed fact-checkers are not any match for the systematic networks of data operators behind the martial regulation disinformation,” she stated. “We solely fact-checked the final six months and we’re up in opposition to this tsunami of disinformation. The sharing suggests behaviour is coordinated by repeat spreaders or established channels and influencers.”
What Labiste described as a “well-oiled operation” has been years within the making. The Marcos Jr marketing campaign has utilised Fb pages and teams, YouTube channels and TikTok movies to achieve out to Filipino voters, most of whom use the web to get their political information. A whistleblower on the British information analytics agency, Cambridge Analytica, which assisted with the presidential marketing campaign of former US President Donald Trump, additionally stated Marcos Jr sought assist to rebrand the household’s picture in 2016, a declare he denied.
His revisionist marketing campaign, nonetheless, acquired a lift from the Philippine authorities that very same yr when outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte determined to present his father a hero’s burial. On the time, Gealogo, the historical past professor, was a commissioner on the Nationwide Historic Fee of the Philippines (NHCP), which has an advisory function to the president. Gealogo objected to the choice, and he and his colleagues printed a paper referred to as “Why Ferdinand Marcos shouldn’t be buried on the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes).”
It was ignored. So was the general public outrage.
Gealogo stated Duterte’s transfer was aimed toward absolving Marcos of his crimes. “That was a gross affront to the NHCP. So, I resigned in protest,” he stated.
The hero’s burial for Marcos resulted in an explosion of disinformation that culminated in Marcos Jr’s election victory. His household’s repute, beforehand “often called corrupt, grasping, abusive” was “recalibrated into one thing enjoyable and modern”, stated Gealogo. “Even the thought of Marcosian opulence – there are YouTube channels exhibiting the household making mild of it as in the event that they have been identical to us.”
On the similar time that disinformation threatens to erode established truths in regards to the dictatorship, Gealogo stated repositories of historic info are additionally underneath assault.
Final October, the federal government instructed universities to purge their libraries of “subversive” materials together with accounts of the nation’s martial regulation period. In March, a number of bookshops carrying among the similar allegedly “subversive” texts have been vandalised. When youngsters’s guide publishers Adarna Home introduced that its assortment of martial regulation literature was occurring sale in Could, state intelligence chief Alex Monteagudo referred to as it an try to “radicalise the Filipino youngsters in opposition to our authorities”.
Eufemio Agbayani III, the NHCP’s Historic Websites Researcher, stated “what’s written in our libraries and museums are nonetheless there” however acknowledged that Marcos Jr’s win is prone to complicate issues for the archivists, particularly as the brand new president can order alterations of historic information, not in contrast to his father in the course of the martial law-era.
“It’s like we’re between two rocks smashing in opposition to one another,” Agbayani stated. “Marcos supporters will say we’re biased as a result of we’ve research disproving Marcos Sr’s battle file and movies discussing sure components of martial regulation. We additionally deal with the Folks Energy monument and commemorate the event as a part of our job. Alternatively, different individuals suppose the NHCP isn’t doing sufficient due to rampant disinformation.”
However he stated any intervention by the NHCP within the debate would go in opposition to the fee’s dedication to non-partisanship.
The Marcos marketing campaign’s use of social media to unfold disinformation is going down similtaneously Philippine historical past has itself been downgraded as a topic in faculties. Since 2014, it has solely been taught as a separate topic at major ranges.
Vladimer Quetua, union chief of Metro Manila’s Alliance of Involved Lecturers, described highschool historical past classes as “chop suey, a mixture of bits and items however by no means the entire thing”. The shortage of correct schooling, he stated, has created a historic amnesia amongst youthful voters, a lot of whom have been too younger to recollect martial law-era abuses.
“Early on in my tenure, college students have been merely apathetic. It was a wrestle to get them to be taught in regards to the story of the Philippines. These days, they’re utterly engaged in politics however are coming from a spot of disinformation.” He stated lecturers have been competing with “the sibling tandem of Google and Wikipedia,” which is now being supplanted by YouTube and Tiktok to “full the household”.
Quetua stated a lot of his fellow lecturers are simply out to do their jobs, and guarantee each little one completes their obligatory education, however he worries that in the long term Filipinos threat shedding their understanding of what occurred in the course of the martial regulation interval and its contribution to the nation’s trauma.
“The curriculum limits you as an educator. Many college students will imagine the myths of getting had a ‘golden age’. They see Marcos and aspire to his wealth,” he stated.
For the Marcos household, Marcos Jr’s presidential win has been a very long time coming and an opportunity to cement their grip on energy.
Imee Marcos, Marcos Jr’s sister and a senator, stated shortly after her brother’s election victory that the win would lastly permit for the rehabilitation of their household’s title and legacy. Marcos Jr’s mom Imelda stays an influential political energy dealer into her 90s, whereas his son additionally has a seat in Congress. A cousin seems to be set to grow to be speaker of the parliament.
In the meantime, Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, who cracked down on impartial media, is the nation’s vice chairman.
Amid the brand new regime’s efforts at consolidating energy, Labiste, the scholar and fact-checker, provided a sobering reminder of the problem dealing with those that wish to guarantee individuals know the reality of the previous.
“The Duterte playbook of clamping down on impartial media whereas favouring extremely partisan info sources will proceed,” stated Labiste. “The problem is to cope with disinformation by fact-checking. To do that, we want a motion.”