It seems Raissa Robles could have incorrectly interpreted the 2013 brochure statement of SCL (“parent company” of the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica) as referring to the Duterte campaign for the 2016 elections. That 2013 brochure (archived by Web.Archive.Org here) cites the Philippines as a case study of an election won on the back of services provided by SCL to “re-brand” a candidate based on a data-driven analysis of voters’ preferences…
Facing national elections, the incumbent client was perceived as kind and honourable – qualities his campaign team thought were election-winning. By contrast, SCL’s research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as ‘tough’ and ‘decisive’. Using the cross-cutting issue of crime, SCL rebranded the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action.
It is easy to see why anyone could have assumed that this was referring to the Duterte campaign. The “kind and honourable” profile of the “incumbent” in the blurb fits the disente rhetoric of the Liberal Party (a.k.a. the Yellowtards) and the public persona of its leader at the time, then president Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. The “tough and decisive” persona is one that seemingly fits that of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Robles had evidently made a hasty — and ultimately erroneous — call to assign the characters in her story in this manner.
But the Philippine blurb in that 2013 SCL brochure exhibits some glaring factual gaps. For one thing, back in 2013, the presidency was unlikely to have been even a twinkle in the eye of Duterte. And why would a supposed presidential candidate be running against an incumbent considering that incumbent presidents are barred from seeking re-election under Philippine law? But then the blurb referred to this “incumbent” as a “client”. Confusing! For that matter, was that case study even referring to a Philippine presidential campaign? Perhaps this is the reason this brochure had been pulled off the SCL website. It could have been the under-researched work of a misguided copywriter.
Web.Archive.Org also has a record of a page from the SCL website trumpeting consulting services provided to a Philippine presidential campaign that is timestamped September 2010 — the year BS Aquino was elected President of the Philippines. This time, the blurb is a lot more specific and explicit (boldface applied by the author for emphasis)…
SCL Elections was asked to run the election campaign for a Presidential candidate; this included managing all aspects of the campaign including research, strategy and output over a seven-month period. SCL Elections successfully won the election for their candidate.
Timestamped 2010 and explicitly referring to a “presidential candidate”. The 2010 presidential election was won by BS Aquino. If we are to believe the content in the 2010-timestamped SCL archived page, we can infer that SCL “successfully won” that election “for” Aquino!
In light of all these revelations, Raissa Robles, erstwhile God’s Gift to Philippine “Investigative” Journalism, gets it wrong at many levels. One level I had earlier pointed out in an earlier article, challenges the notion that the data analytics services provided by firms like SCL and Cambridge Analytica actually contribute as strongly to influencing election outcomes as we are led to believe. The other level described here is just plain sloppy “journalism” — yet another chapter added to the sad story of the unabated degeneration of mainstream “journalism”.
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