Social media has followed the rise of Davao City's tough-talking mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the highest seat of the land. It gave him an edge even over candidates backed by powerful political machineries.
But how exactly has this medium changed the political discourse, and how do the likes, retweets, and posts translate to solid support on the ground?
Speaking on ANC's "#Du30 Army: The President's social media war" forum, Pompee La Viña, the director of President Duterte's social media campaign said, they had 12-M volunteers helping keep Duterte trending online, day in and day out in the run-up to the May elections. He clarifies though, social media wasn't a magic pill that carried Duterte to victory. He explains, they had a good brand to push, to begin with.
"Duterte's character appealed to voters. While others focused on economic issues, he focused on the drug problem. And surveys show us drugs is the winning issue."
La Viña added, they felt traditional media wasn't giving them equal airtime, so they had no choice but to turn to social media, where they mobilized volunteers from the grassroots.
The Manila Times managing editor Felipe Salvosa said, also helping catapult Duterte to the presidency is a "strong undercurrent of anti-establishment, anti-elite thinking among the electorate."
This trend, all panelists agree is seen all over the world, like for instance the Brexit vote.
Data Analyst and social media strategist Gary Viray meanwhile said, a brand like Duterte can only infect perspective, once it reaches a certain critical mass. He however admitted, it is not easy to distinguish real social media users from trolls (paid, fake accounts) and bots (using automatic generating system).
Viray said, while trolls and bots are easily bought, one cannot buy actual engagements online.
For social media activist Mae Paner, known online as Juana Change, Duterte's supporters should be more "sober,"and not engage in rabid engagements.
"Bashing on social media has been very vicious. The mentality is—if you're not with us, you're against us."
The forum also tackled real life experiences of journalists who have experienced online bashing for the work they do, as well as the psychology of hate messages posted online and how they snowball, and the honeymoon period between the President and the Press.
Catch the full discussion on Tuesday, September 27, 7 pm only on ANC, the ABS-CBN news channel.
You can also catch the livestream on the ANC Facebook page.