Fernando Poe Jr. was leading in the surveys for the presidential elections of 2004 even as early as 2003. Then he refused to participate in the presidential debates. Critics had charged he was avoiding the debates to hide his shortcomings. The tide shifted when many saw it as an inability to run the country. His numbers in opinion polls began to plummet

Bongbong Marcos can learn from the FPJ experience.

The reason given for his failure to participate in the candidates’ interview by Jessica Soho was the wrong one. “Jessica Soho is biased against the Marcoses.” But to put it bluntly — credibility has never been a liability of Jessica Soho. This is what their logic is up against for evidence: British Embassy Manila’s Fleet Street Award for Investigative Journalism 1998, Golden Dove Award for Best Public Affairs Show Host 2002, Ka Doroy Valencia Award Broadcaster of the Year 1999, The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) 2001, Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) 1993, and dozens of other accolades impossible to list here. As a result of her never-ending string of awards, she has been put on the Hall of Fame four times. Marcos fans can go check the evidence. The Marcos camp truly started on the wrong foot with a big problem on their hands.

Not many moons ago in September 2018, Bongbong Marcos appeared in a one-on-one interview with Juan Ponce Enrile to present what he called “the millennials’ approach” at correcting the distortions of history against the Marcoses. Last year, he appeared in another one-on-one interview with television host Toni Gonzaga. It would thus seem that his agenda for an interview is one that will continue revising history in his family’s favor. But the Marcos family is asking for the moon. History has already been judged, no matter the lack of teaching his father’s dictatorship in our academic institutions.

Hence for damage control, it used gaslighting. Gaslighting, however, is a cheap gimmick to twist our perception of reality. Instead of focusing on failure, the responsibility of accountability is effectively decoyed by putting the blame on something else. One form is name-calling. Gaslighting has recently become part of troll farm logic precisely because it conveniently takes away blame and transfers it on a bogey as a rapid way of pleasing troll-generated mass appeal. But only small minds do gaslight.

Obviously it was to instruct the trolls to demonize Jessica Soho. They can try again, because Soho’s corpus of questions was well researched. University of the Philippines journalism educator Danilo Arao capsulizes her journalistic carriage: “With the help of researchers and writers, the questions were framed carefully, often predicated with facts. The topics were broad enough to test the knowledge of the four aspirants and assess their stand.” Ping Lacson was grilled using Alfred McCoy’s book that he participated in torture during the Marcos regime. He was asked about his flight from the Dacer-Corbito murders (true, that). Aray! That hurt! Manny Pacquiao was grilled on his tax evasion case. Both were not reduced in size before the public because they acted the fair game that they should be. That was very presidential.

As of the latest viral tweets, Marcos Jr.’s gaslighting may cost him his votes: many have openly shifted choices to another candidate. Twitter was filled by confessions of Marcos followers openly eschewing Bongbong Marcos for another candidate. The hashtag #MarcosDuwag generated thousands of tweets in a few hours – 65.5k tweets worldwide as of Sunday January 23.

Dan Arao sizes up the moment vis-à-vis the era of disinformation/misinformation: “There is no such thing as ‘bobotante’ even if many Filipinos are deceived by various forms of disinformation due to the sophisticated techniques (not to mention the massive funding) of the ‘fake news’ industry. Discussion of issues at media interviews and debates can help sway voter preference. It remains to be seen if Marcos’s unprecedented commanding lead will be affected by his selectivity in facing the press.”