MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo said volunteers paid for her campaign ads on social media, in their bid to fight fake news and disinformation.
"From the official campaign, none that I’m aware of. Ang alam ko talaga, karamihan talaga dito mga volunteer groups," Robredo told ANC's Rundown Thursday, when asked if her campaign team spent money for the social media advertisements.
Facebook ads for Robredo, the opposition bet for president, amounted to P14.1 million from Aug. 4, 2020, when the transparency tool was activated, until Dec. 31, 2021, a review of the social media platform’s Ad Library showed. She registered the top spending on Facebook among all the 2022 presidential aspirants.
Robredo said it was understandable why followers ran these ads for her.
"I understand why our volunteers feel the need to do that because it has been clear over the past 5 years and going into the campaign na grabe talaga ang social media machinery ng kalaban," she said.
Robredo said many experts also pointed out her competitors have troll armies, who spread fake news and hurl insults.
"Kaya marami talaga sa volunteer groups namin, yung perception nila, kailangan talaga nilang tumulong. Every time we meet, yun ang kinakatakutan--'ito na naman ang fake news, kailangan natin 'tong labanan.' Parang yung sense of urgency din sa kanila nandun. Kaya everyone else is doing their share," she added.
(Many of our volunteer groups really want to help. They are awary of fake news, they know misinformation needs to stop, that we need to fight this. They have a sense of urgency.)
Her spokesperson. lawyer Barry Gutierrez, has said that the ads were paid for by volunteers who had coordinated with the campaign team to either boost the official posts of the vice president or produce original materials to promote her candidacy.
Robredo placed second behind fellow presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in a voter preference survey released on December 22.
In that survey, more than half or 53 percent said they would vote the only son and namesake of the former dictator for president, while 20 percent said they would vote for Robredo.
Unlike Robredo, however, Marcos has not recorded any ad spending on Facebook.
But this is not surprising because Marcos prefers meme wars over ads, said disinformation researcher Jonathan Ong.
“Political ads are traditionally effective in conveying candidates’ general proposition and branding — but they can end up sounding generic and inauthentic. BBM is more invested in the "meme wars" and campaigning via political fan groups, community pages, and micro-influencers,” Ong has said.
Facebook’s Ad Library is a public database of ads that ran on the social media platform owned by the company that now goes by the name Meta. It provides details such as the content of the ads, how much was spent to boost the ads, and who were targeted to see the ads.
However, the Ad Library does not detail how much candidates spent to produce the ads and payments to social media experts who managed their accounts. It also does not cover payments to “influencers” tapped to endorse candidates on Facebook.