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New Philippines president Marcos Jr accused of falsely claiming to have a degree from Oxford

·3-min read

Philippines’ presumptive next president Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of a former dictator, is drawing backlash for misrepresenting his educational qualifications.

Nicknamed “Bongbong”, Mr Marcos has claimed in earlier interviews to have earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oxford.

However, the University recently denied this claim.

“According to our records, he did not complete his degree but was awarded a special diploma in social studies in 1978,” Oxford said while responding to a freedom of information request by a UK-based Filipina supporter of his nearest rival Leni Robredo, according to The Guardian.

Mr Marcos’s campaign website had stated: “He completed his undergraduate studies at Oxford University and graduated with a special diploma in Social Studies.”

Last October, his chief of staff Victor Rodriguez had said that Mr Marcos “has always been forthright on his conferment of a special diploma in social studies by the distinguished university” and has “never misrepresented his Oxford education”.

Without clarifying if Mr Marcos indeed finished his undergraduate studies at the British university, his chief of staff had added: “We stand by the degree confirmation which was issued by the University of Oxford. It is up to anyone to question or challenge this with the said university.”

The UK-based Filipina who moved the FoI request with Oxford said Mr Marcos should “stop misrepresenting his special diploma, which is clearly not a degree”.

“It’s clear he did not complete undergraduate studies,” she said, adding that although the degree may not be so important, the misrepresentation is a “reflection on his personality and character”.

Mr Marcos, 64, secured a landslide win on 9 May after he received more than 31 million votes, double that of his closest rival, the outgoing vice president Leni Robredo, according to preliminary results.

The final results will be officially declared only later in May after all votes are counted, and the winner will take office on 30 June for a single six-year term.

His electoral triumph, in what’s projected to be one of the strongest mandates for a Philippine president in decades, represents a dramatic reversal of the “people power” revolt in 1986, which ousted his father following years of human rights violations.

While Mr Marcos lost the 2016 vice-presidential race to Ms Roredo, his electoral win this May did not surprise many, with Philippines’ fact-checkers noting that his campaign relied on a disinformation campaign aimed at white-washing the family’s chequered history.

“We have seen disinformation falsely claiming that the Philippine economy during the Marcos Senior regime was the golden age,” Meeko Angela Camba, head of a fact-checking initiative focused on public figures at Vera Files, a Philippines journalism and fact-checking outlet, told Poynter.

“The generalised spread of disinformation has created an environment which has made it difficult for many voters to make informed decisions at the polling station,” Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and chairperson of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Parliamentarians for Human Rights, told CNN.

“Even though the electoral process has been conducted in a formally correct manner, we are concerned that voting choices based on lies and harmful narratives could have seriously undermined the integrity of the elections and democracy itself.”

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