YEARENDER: Social media battleground for 2016 poll candidates
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - December 24, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Candidates gunning for government posts wasted no time this year in using social media to gather supporters and announce their plans for the country should they win in next year’s elections.

Months before the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) in October, various election propaganda circulated online, with many supporters initiating social network pages urging various politicians to run for president.

Among the most popular were the Facebook pages supporting the presidential run of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sens. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor-Santiago; Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and then Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

Except for Marcos, who decided to run for vice president, the other five eventually decided to file their COCs and vie for the highest post in the land.

Joining Marcos in the vice presidential race are Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo and Sens. Gregorio Honasan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Blogger and columnist Tonyo Cruz said netizens would have the power to set the political atmosphere and agenda in the months leading up to the polls.

“The number of Filipino netizens has already doubled (since the last presidential elections), from 20 million Filipinos with Internet access in 2010 to around 40 million in 2015,” he said in September.

“There is a changing landscape,” he added.

Miriam is social media president

Following the COC filing, focus has shifted from the unofficial Facebook pages created by supporters to the actual accounts maintained by the candidates.

A recent check of the official social media accounts of those running for president showed that Santiago remains the most “liked” and “followed” presidential aspirant on Facebook and Twitter.

The feisty senator, whose reinvention in recent years turned her into a social media darling among the youth, has over 3.2 million likes on Facebook and 2.21 million followers on Twitter.

Despite lagging in surveys conducted by Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, she has consistently topped mock polls in various universities.

Following her in terms of supporters online are Binay (1.9 million Facebook likes and 286,000 Twitter followers), Duterte (1.4 million Facebook likes and 20,000 Twitter followers) and Roxas (1.2 million Facebook likes and 565,000 Twitter followers).

Lagging behind them is Poe, with only over 900,000 Facebook likes and 64,000 Twitter followers.

Among the candidates for vice president, Cayetano has the most Facebook likes with over 1.2 million. He is followed by Escudero with over 634,000 and Trillanes with over 628,000.

Marcos and Robredo have over 533,000 and 468,000 likes on Facebook, respectively, while Honasan – a surprise choice as running mate of Binay – only has over 10,000 Facebook likes.

While popularity on social media does not necessarily translate to support from voters, a candidate’s presence in cyberspace – particularly his or her way of “connecting” to an Internet-savvy generation of Filipinos – may spell victory or defeat in case of tight races.

Monitoring of the social media accounts of the top presidential candidates showed that content has shifted to election-related entries, containing posts such as the filing of COC and other activities.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body would not regulate but simply monitor the candidates’ use of social media during the campaign period.

In recent elections, the Comelec has instituted measures to monitor the placement of advertisements of candidates in websites.


Some candidates have effectively used the Internet, particularly social media, to gather supporters.

Even before announcing her candidacy, Santiago received support from Filipino netizens after videos of her “pick-up lines” circulated online.

Some photos of Robredo, including one showing her waiting for a bus, have also earned praise from netizens.

Meanwhile, a star-studded video supporting Roxas and Robredo did not get a lot of support from online users.

The music video, titled Fast Forward, had only over 4,000 likes and over 36,000 dislikes on YouTube.

Duterte serye

In May, anticipation of a possible run of Duterte was fueled by a leak of a television advertisement of the mayor.

The video featured a helmet-clad Duterte riding a motorcycle around Davao, which was described as the ninth safest city in the world. A message, supposedly narrated by the mayor in Filipino, accompanies the video.

“It is not a secret how Davao City prospered. We just need a little courage – courage to correct those who are opportunistic, those who are violating the laws and those who oppress people who cannot defend themselves,” the mayor said.

“There is peace in Davao. It can be like this in the entire Philippines,” he added.

Duterte repeatedly denied his plans to run for president, although support from various sectors has continuously grown.

Even his daughter, former Davao City mayor Sara Duterte, turned to Instagram to express support for her father.

Anticipation reached its peak on Oct. 16 after reports circulated that the mayor had flown to Manila to file his COC. Hopes were crushed though when the mayor, who reiterated his decision not to run, failed to appear at Comelec by 5 p.m., the closing of office hours.

Eventually, Duterte changed his mind and filed as a substitute candidate for PDP-Laban secretary-general Martin Diño.


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