MANILA, Philippines — Just a day after Vice President Leni Robredo announced that she would continue serving Filipinos through a foundation anchored on her landmark “Angat Buhay” (Uplift Lives) program after she steps down, some of her supporters on Saturday flagged what they described as a dubious Facebook group with a similar name that had attracted tens of thousands so far.
Robredo’s announcement during a thanksgiving gathering on Friday quickly triggered an outpouring of support among the “kakampinks”—the term coined to refer to supporters of the Vice President and Sen. Francis Pangilinan, her running mate in the May 9 presidential election.
Her main rival, former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late ousted dictator, has amassed more than twice the number of her votes, but she has not formally conceded the election to him.
Her official Facebook page, VP Leni Robredo, reminded the public to wait for any announcements concerning the future Angat Buhay NGO (nongovernment organization) that she said would be launched on July 1, a day after she steps down as Vice President.
Her office, she said, had already come up with a “template” on how to make the program, which provided support for small businesses and livelihood opportunities for poor communities, effective despite its scant budget from the government.
“We bridged those who were ready to help to those who needed help. Now, we are more organized,” Robredo said.
“We have seen what we could achieve when we all contribute. The Philippines, and even the entire world, witnessed the power of our volunteerism,” she added.
Those who want to join the initiative can send in their concerns or questions by email to [email protected]
“While waiting for future announcements and details, we remind everyone to be careful and critical of anyone claiming to be a part of the NGO and seeking funding,” her Facebook page said in a warning against fraud.
A Robredo supporter, Zach Yonzon, posted a statement on the Angat Buhay NGO Facebook page saying that it was a fake and asked everyone who joined to leave. By Saturday afternoon the page already had over 40,000 members.
Yonzon said the administrator of the page—a certain AJ San Jose—had disallowed comments and locked the identity profile of the person, which could identify him or her, after others started questioning the legitimacy of the group.
“This group aims to mislead and to spy. Destroy it before it gets off the ground,” Yonzon said.
In response to one commenter, San Jose said that as a “staunch supporter” of the Vice President, he had locked his profile as a safety measure against the “trolls” of Marcos and President Duterte, whose daughter is the former senator’s vice presidential running mate.
“Also, why are you so paranoid and have trust issue regarding my profile?” San Jose added.San Jose has yet to personally respond to questions from the Inquirer.
The Inquirer also asked Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez what action they may take against the suspicious Facebook page, but he has not replied.
He said, however, that they were elated by the positive response from supporters who expressed their intentions to support the Angat Buhay project.
Gutierrez said that the growing support for the planned foundation was proof that a new movement was born during the election campaign.
“A movement that we are prepared to pursue our gains to develop our country further and uplift our fellow Filipinos,” he said.
Addressing thousands of her supporters on Friday night at the Ateneo de Manila University campus, Robredo called for help once more, this time in waging a more determined fight against the spread of lies on social media.
Without mentioning Marcos by name, Robredo said her primary opponent in the presidential race had been preparing his online machinery long before the May 9 general elections.
“Disinformation is our biggest enemy,” the Vice President said at the thanksgiving event.
“It has stolen the truth, and so it also stole our history and our future,” she said. “Since this has been planned for decades, the machinery to spread hate and lies has been very potent and pervasive.”
“It’s up to us to say if the fight has already ended or if it has just started,” she added.
Robredo was the “biggest victim” of massive disinformation on various social media platforms believed to be the handiwork of a well-funded network of troll farms, according to Tsek.ph, a fact-checking collective.
The group also found that Marcos, who had denied maintaining an army of internet trolls, had benefited the most from disinformation.
At the same event, the Vice President urged the kakampinks to sustain the spirit of volunteerism that kept the Robredo-Pangilinan campaign afloat during the election campaign despite the lack of a big political organization.
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