MANILA: American lawyer Thomas Jones still remembers the scars of Philippine torture victims he interviewed for Amnesty International inside the country’s detention centres in 1975 during the rule of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
But Marcos, who presided over widespread abuses and corruption during his 20 years in power, denied the lawyer’s visit to the Philippines ever happened.
Decades later the dictator’s claim – debunked by AFP and others – has resurfaced on social media sites popular among Filipinos.
Amnesty estimates thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands tortured and imprisoned after Marcos imposed martial law on Sep 21, 1972.
Under legislation signed in 2013 by former president Benigno Aquino, 11,103 victims of torture, killings, enforced disappearances and other abuses have been officially recognised and compensated.
In the run-up to Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of the start of martial law, pro-Marcos posts have flooded Facebook and TikTok with false and misleading claims that cast doubt on Amnesty’s findings and downplay the abuses.
AFP has fact-checked multiple posts that carried footage of Marcos addressing US media in 1982.
Marcos – father of current Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr who has defended martial law – accused Amnesty of relying on “hearsay” for their findings. And he falsely claimed the rights group “never” visited the country.
The clip resurfaced on TikTok in March after an anti-Marcos Senate candidate running in the May 9 elections cited Amnesty for figures showing the horrors of martial law.
“Amnesty International (said) 3,257 were killed during Marcos’s time, 35,000 were tortured … 70,000 were imprisoned. It’s a matter of record,” Luke Espiritu said in a debate.
Within hours of that livestreamed event, the Marcos footage had been stitched with the Espiritu video and circulated on TikTok and Facebook.
It received more than 900,000 views, according to analysis by AFP’s Fact Check team.
One post drew more than 3,000 comments that questioned Amnesty’s numbers and described the dictator as “a great leader destroyed by black propaganda”.