Bongbong Marcos denies tapping Cambridge Analytica for 'rebranding,' hints at legal action
File photo shows defeated vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos and his sister, Imee.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, File
Bongbong Marcos denies tapping Cambridge Analytica for 'rebranding,' hints at legal action
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - July 16, 2020 - 1:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday hinted at legal action over a news report that he sought help from controversial political data company Cambridge Analytica to change perceptions of his family on social media.

Marcos, through his spokesman, denied having any dealings with Cambridge Analytica, and called the Rappler story  "patently fake, false, and misleading."

Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said the former senator "is consulting with his legal team and will be exploring the legal options to fight this injustice. The filing of libel charges is on the table."

He said that "Marcos never reached out to [Cambridge Analytica] and, like most of us, was only made aware of Cambridge Analytica's existence through reports of its controversial activities in the media."

Cambridge Analytica came under fire in 2018 after a former employee exposed that the company had harvested the private information of around 87 million users on Facebook.

The company, which has since ceased operations, was created in 2013 with $15 million in funding from billionaire Robert Mercer, a donor to the Republican Party.

READ: Facebook takes more heat for enabling political falsehoods | What you need to know about the Facebook data scandal | Facebook exec says it helped put Trump in White House

Former Cambridge Analytica employee-turned-whistleblower Brittany Kaiser said in a Rappler report that the company received a "request straight from Bongbong Marcos to do a family rebranding."

Kaiser said that despite some internal debate within the company, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix asked employees to write a proposal anyway because he saw it as a "massive financial oppurtunity."

She added there was enough user information in the Philippines to conduct micro-targeting or the strategic transmission of tailored political messages to a certain group of people.

"So, as you call it historical revisionism, that's exactly what it is, but it's done in a data-driven and scientific way. So you undertake just enough research to figure out what people believe about a certain family, individual, politician and then you figure out what could convince them to feel otherwise. And you run tests until you actually start to see people's opinions and attitude changing," Kaiser said.

Following the Cambridge Analytica fallout of 2018, the Philippine Privacy Commission disclosed that the Philippines was second only to the United States in terms of Facebook users whose data may have been "improperly shared."

READ: Philippines privacy body probes Facebook data breach

"An instance where the history of a family and an individual is important for the public to know, then this type of work is extremely dangerous," Kaiser said.

Marcos, defeated for the vice presidency by Leni Robredo in 2016,  has announced his intention to run for a national post in 2022

READ: 'Wiki warriors' fighting Marcos myths on Wikipedia | NEWSLAB: 31 Years of Amnesia

The Marcos family and historical revisionism

This is not the first time the Marcos family has been accused of attempting to revise history. 

The dictator's two-decade rule saw large-scale plundering of state coffers, human rights abuses, killings, disappearances and media repression, which his family refuses to acknowledge.

Global human rights organization Amnesty International reported that the Marcos dictatorship was marked by wanton human rights violations, logging 34,000 tortured and 3,240 killed.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which is mandated to recover all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by the ousted dictator, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates in the Philippines or abroad has recovered over P171 billion in cash as of 2018.

READ:  Money Trail: The Marcos Billions | Marcoses ordered to forfeit ill-gotten paintings, art worth millions of dollars 

During his campaign for the vice presidency, Marcos claimed that his dictator father's "good work" continues to benefit the Filipino people.

After academics slammed his "revisionist" view, he denied having said that his father's presidency marked a golden age for the Philippines.

Early this year, Marcos called for the revision of school textbooks that portray his family as “bad” people.

READ: Bongbong wants textbooks about Marcos years 'fixed' | Leaving out Marcos-led Martial Law in textbooks a mockery of history — teachers' network

His call was met with condemnation from historians from the University of the Philippines who said it was "a brazen effort to further his family’s political dynasty while shirking accountability for their crimes."

In May, Sen. Imee Marcos during a hearing lauded one of her father’s agricultural projects, the “Masagana 99,” calling it “effective” and successful.

READ: Dominguez counters Marcos with history to debunk Masagana 99 'success'

Her claims were swiftly debunked by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III who said he "cleaned up the mess that was left" by the project when he served as Corazon Aquino's agriculture secretary.

A year into his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte fulfilled his campaign vow to grant the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero's burial. 

READ: Duterte admits being indebted to Imee Marcos | Palace calls martial law 'tool to save... democracy' despite recognizing Marcos atrocities

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