MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday denied that his administration was shelling out money to hire online trolls and rig results of popularity surveys.
“I don’t need to defend myself from attacks. I stated my piece during my inauguration and during my campaign. I’m not anymore eligible for reelection,” Duterte said in a news conference after his 2-hour State of the Nation Address.
Duterte said this in response to a question about the results of an Oxford University study, which claimed that his team employed “keyboard trolls” during the May 2016 electoral campaign and has kept them on the payroll after his victory.
“[In] the Philippines, many of the so‐called ‘keyboard trolls’ hired to spread propaganda for presidential candidate Duterte during the election continue to spread and amplify messages in support of his policies now he’s in power,” the study said.
Duterte, a reluctant presidential candidate, had been swept to power partly by strong support from social media users.
The study also claimed that Duterte’s team spent at least $200,000 and employed a staff of 400 to 500 people to defend the President from his critics online.
The administration has been accused of employing online trolls to silence critics, with some issuing threats of violence and rape to those opposed to the tough-talking President's policies and statements.
Meanwhile, the President also said his government was not involved in any rigging of the results of popularity surveys by major pollsters Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations.
“So itong Pulse Asia, itong Social Weather, iyan man dapat gastusan ko para magtaas ang rating ko? Tanungin mo sila ma’am kung nagbigay ako, I will resign tomorrow,” he said.
“Sabihin mo lang [ang SWS at Pulse Asia], was there a time na pumunta dito si Mayor Duterte at kinausap kayo or even offered 20 pesos to write a word that is good for him?”
Despite the numerous issues thrown his way, President Duterte continues to enjoy high popularity ratings.
The June 23 to 26 SWS survey showed 78 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the President's performance compared to the 12 percent dissatisfied and 10 percent undecided. The figures gave Duterte a net satisfaction rating of +66, his new personal record.
In Pulse Asia’s June survey, meanwhile, Duterte received an approval rating of 82 percent and a trust rating of 81 percent.
His approval rating jumped 4 percentage points from 78 percent in March 2017. The 81 percent he notched for his trust rating, meanwhile, was an increase of 5 points from 76 in March 2017.