Philipines presidential election on Monday will have interesting bearing on the forthcoming 15GE in Malaysia

When Filipino voters go to the polls for the Philippines Presidential election on Monday, it will have interesting bearing on the forthcoming 15th General Election in Malaysia.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa has said that the Philippines presidential election is “a microcosm of a global battle for facts” as he quoted author Milan Kundera: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.

The Philippines presidential election has turned into a rematch between Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr, son the late dictator and current Vice President Leni Robredo.

Robredo narrowly defeated Marcos in the 2016 vice presidential race. Marcos claimed election fraud and later launched a protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. A partial recount showed Robredo’s votes increased and after four years of legal drama, the case was dismissed.

Six years after that failed campaign, Marcos, whose father was ousted for massive corruption and human rights abuses in a people’s revolution in 1986, is the presidential front-runner in the May 9 election.

Marcos’ popularity is based on the nostalgia of alleged prosperity and the “golden age” of Filipino society during his father’s dictatorship in the 1980s. Political observers and disinformation researchers say his campaign is buoyed by a massive disinformation and propaganda network.

A study of news outlet VERA Files, a Facebook fact-checking partner in the Philippines, showed Marcos gained from “misleading” posts on social media while Robredo is the biggest disinformation victim.

The Philippines government has recovered $3.3 billion of the estimated $10 billion that the Marcoses are accused of stealing, but the $2.4 billion in assets are still under litigation, with various groups tussling over them. Should Marcos win the presidency, many fear those proceedings, along with the $3.9 billion in estate taxes, will be swept away, cementing the false idea that the Marcoses are innocent.

Will Malaysia’s 15th GE be the next test in South East Asia in the “microcosm of a global battle for facts”?

Wil lies, fake news, false information and conspiracy theories triumph over truth and facts in the 15 GE in Malaysia?

If Macros Jr. can win the Philippines presidential election on Monday by falsely painting the Marcos era in the 1980s as the Filipino “golden era”, this will tempt copycats in Malaysia to paint the period the world denounced Malaysia for kleptocracy as the period of Malaysia’s “golden era”.

It is not that there were no lies and fake news in the public square in the traditional media, but the advent of the social media with billions of humans plugged in one instant 24/7 global information stream has created an unprecedented crisis of trust in Malaysia and the globe.

The more than two years of Covid-19 pandemic provides a useful example.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that the Covd-19 pandemic has caused the death of nearly 15 million people around the world, although many countries have undercounted the numbers who died from Covid as only 6.2 million deaths had been reported.

But there is even today, in the midst of the pandemic, significant minorities around the world who think that Covid-19 is a hoax and does not really exist – after an infection of over 500 million in official figures.

Can Malaysians learn to differentiate between truth and facts on the one hand and lies, fake news and misinformation on the other in the run-up to the 15GE?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri