Malaysians have a mountain to climb if they are to convince the world that Malaysia is not the Philippines and that Malaysians will not regard the last decade as a ”golden era” when the nation was condemned worldwide as a kleptocracy – as the 15th General Election, whenever it is held, is less than a year away.
The Philippines Presidential Election yesterday is proof that social media disinformation and Internet lies can win elections and turned the notorious Filipino kleptocracy of the Marcos in the 80s into a “golden era” of peace and prosperity.
It is a most divisive election, as survivors of Marcos Senior’s brutal regime are horrified that atrocities where thousands of political opponents had been tortured, arrested and disappeared under his rule, while as much as $10 billion was plundered, could be whitewashed.
The Filipinos have lost the “microcosm of a global battle for facts” in the Philippines Presidential election, as described by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, quoting author Milan Kundera “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.
Marcos Jr has presented no real policy platform, campaigning on a simple but ambiguous message of unity.
Marcos was criticised for skipping presidential debates and made few media appearances during the campaign, enabling him to limit scrutiny and control his message via a network of influencers and bloggers granted broad access to his events.
Yesterday’s outcome demonstrates the huge impact of a sophisticated social media operation aimed at younger Filipinos born after the People Power revolution in 1986, and a proliferation of misinformation challenging historical accounts of the Marcos martial law era.
The Philippines was once described by a Facebook executive as “patient zero” in the global disinformation epidemic, but over the years, the government has done little to stop the deluge.
Much of the disinformation is being peddled on Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. The violent Marcos era is being recast as a period of strong economic growth and infrastructure projects. Leni Robredo, the country’s vice president and Mr. Marcos’s chief rival, was being painted as a communist who had accomplished nothing in office.
Could Malaysia prove that we are not the Philippines where social media disinformation and Internet lies could “whitewash” the kleptocracy and abuses of power of the last decade and turned it into a “golden era” for Malaysia.
These are serious thoughts for Malaysians who love the country after the Philippines Presidential election yesterday.