2016 poll ads start making rounds online

First published in The Philippine Star, 5 October 2014

MANILA, Philippines – It’s still more than a year before the 2016 presidential elections, but the Internet – particularly social media site Facebook – is already teeming with pages urging various personalities and politicians to run for the top post in the land.

And while Vice President Jejomar Binay appears to be the frontrunner in the next presidential race based on surveys, it was a different story when it came to his popularity on Facebook.

The STAR conducted a search yesterday on various personalities to verify the existence of “For President” pages bearing their names, and results showed the most popular was the one urging Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to run in 2016.

Called “Bongbong Marcos for President” movement, the Facebook community page – started just in August – already has over 238,000 likes.

“(It) is a movement of people united with the vision to bring Philippines back to greatness, to glory. We believe we need young, brilliant, progressive leadership to accomplish this. And so, we push and encourage others to call for the Presidency of Senator Marcos in 2016,” read the page’s description.

The people behind the page stated that the views expressed therein were neither that of Marcos nor those of his representatives.

Another page with over 20,000 likes, as well as three other groups urging Marcos to run for president in 2016 – all with thousands of members – exist and are active on Facebook.

Meanwhile, The STAR found at least two active Facebook pages supporting the candidacy of Binay for 2016. One has over 8,700 likes, while another has more than 3,800. Another group – with almost 8,000 members – is also supporting the candidacy of Binay.

A closed Facebook group supporting the candidacy of Liberal Party stalwart Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II also had almost 8,000 members.

A new page, named “Oras Na, Roxas Na,” is also starting to gain popularity with over 1,700 likes as of yesterday.

Binay has already expressed his intention to run for president in 2016, while Roxas – generally touted as the LP standard bearer in the next polls – has yet to make clear his position. Marcos likewise remains mum on the issue.

Duterte, Santiago, Poe

The STAR likewise found at least five Facebook pages urging Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to run for president, the most popular of which has over 30,000 likes.

The pages remain active even as Duterte had already dismissed the idea of him running for a national post in 2016.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who said she may run in 2016 if she recovers from cancer, has at least three Facebook pages supporting her candidacy for president. The most popular, which misspelled her name as “Meriam” has over 10,000 likes.

A Facebook page with almost 6,000 likes is also supporting a presidential run of Sen. Grace Poe. At least three other Facebook pages are urging Poe to run for president.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s supporters also started two similar pages, each of which has over a thousand likes as of yesterday.

Pages or groups with less than a thousand participants, include those urging Senators Antonio Trillanes and Francis Escudero, as well as Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo and businessman Manny Pangilinan, to run for president.

The STAR did not find an active page urging other personalities in the recent Pulse Asia survey – particularly Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, former Vice President Noli de Castro, detained Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., and presidential agriculture adviser Francis Pangilinan – to run in 2016.

More of PNoy

Also attracting thousands of followers on Facebook were pages supporting a second term for President Aquino.

The STAR found at least three pages calling for Aquino’s reelection, one of which has over 10,000 likes as of yesterday. A recent post on the page said they are also planning to launch a website.

On Friday, a group calling for a second term for Aquino said they would gather signatures to ask the President to run again in 2016.

The Movement for Reform, Continuity and Momentum (More2Come) said they plan to have two million signatures by Nov. 30.

Aquino earlier said he was open to a second term, with the Palace later stressing that the President would listen to his bosses. A recent Pulse Asia survey showed that six of 10 Filipinos do not want the President to pursue a second term.

The “For President” movement pages were maintained by supporters and not of the personalities being promoted or their staff.

The number of likes, The STAR learned, was mostly lower than the number of likes on the official pages of the personalities.

For instance, the official page of Aquino – maintained by the new media team of the Presidential Communications Operations Office – has over four million likes.

It was followed by that of Santiago’s, which has over 2.1 million likes. Roxas’ page has almost 700,000, while Binay’s has over 500,000.

Marcos’ official page on Facebook is an exception as it only has over 100,000 likes, or half the number of those who “liked” the Marcos for President Movement page.

It was lower than the number of likes on the official pages of Duterte (638,000), Cayetano (506,000), Escudero (487,000), Estrada (369,000), Trillanes (291,000), and Poe (188,000).

Last year, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism held a forum where experts analyzed the role of social media and the Internet in the 2013 mid-term polls.

During the forum, social media experts agreed that while the Internet had played a significant role in the midterm elections, it only had a minor influence on what really happened “on the ground.”

Political analyst and campaign strategist Malou Tiquia said the Commission on Elections has recognized the significance of the Internet in the elections as it decided to monitor and regulate political advertising online.

Tiquia also noted how candidates used the Internet to reach out to the voting population. She cited the case of senatorial bet Eddie Villanueva, who organized an “online kick-off rally.”

Other candidates also mobilized teams to assist in the production of video blogs, as well as in the live streaming of political rallies and sorties.

“Everyone wants to be like Barack Obama,” said the analyst, referring to the successful online campaign used by the US President when he ran in 2008.

She said, however, that very few politicians in the country actually understand how the Internet works.

“How many politicians know the behavior of their Facebook and Twitter followers?” she asked in Filipino.

Blogger Juned Sonido said most candidates adopted online marketing strategies in this year’s elections. He noted, however, that not all marketing strategies could be allowed in the political campaign season.

Despite the supposed noise generated in online discussions, the panelists agreed that it actually had little effect on the actual results of the polls.

Ferdinand Llanes, former chairman of the UP Department of History, said the buzz created on the Internet had a “very small impact” on the results because netizens constitute a minority of the voting population.

Data presented during the forum showed that only around 30 percent of Filipinos have Internet access.

Jaemark Tordecilla, of Interaksyon, said the huge presence of candidates on the Internet did not translate to actual votes, citing Teddy Casiño and Risa Hontiveros, who both had an online following, but did not win in the elections. Even former senator Richard Gordon, who trended on Twitter the day after the elections, failed to make it to the Magic 12.

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