Individuals or groups with influence on public opinion, who are not in the category of professional news media outlets: blogs, websites, any other channel
The idea of ‘opinion makers’ in the Philippines can be broken into three: first, the ‘influencers’ in social media, second, the oft-discussed or oft-cited public figures in mainstream media, and third, media personalities who provide insights in established broadcast programmes (such as news anchors). The second and third also manage their respective accounts or pages in social media.
The social media accounts with the most number of followers in the Philippines are those of celebrities. For instance, actors like Anne Curtis, Vice Ganda, and Angel Locsin each have more than 10 million followers in Twitter. In Facebook, actors like Marian Rivera and Angel Locsin have about 15 million ‘likers’ on the pages. The number of followers on these celebrity pages easily dwarf those on the pages of public officials.
Media conglomerates and service providers like ABS-CBN and GMA also rank high in the list of accounts with followers numbering to at least 13 million (but these fall under the category of ‘professional news media outlets’).
There are also ‘bloggers’ who publish political content and who have a significant number of followers. For example, the controversial Facebook account of Margaux ‘Mocha’ Uson, former assistant secretary in the Presidential Communications Group (appointed by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte), has more than five million ‘likers’. If all these likes on her Facebook page are authentic, then she has a greater reach than the pages of many professional news media outlets. However, Uson was repeatedly accused of peddling fake news through her Facebook page (Hapal and Magsambol, 2017) and was even summoned in a Senate hearing on proliferation of fake news.
Filipino internet users also follow influencers according to their respective interests. For instance, a certain Anne Clutz, a Filipino ‘vlogger’ with about a million subscribers on YouTube, posts make-up tutorial videos and product reviews. James Deakin, now a television host at CNN Philippines, is also a YouTube vlogger with a following among car enthusiasts and vehicle users.
There is no up-to-date empirical data on the visibility and framing of public personalities (e.g. President Rodrigo Duterte) in mainstream media. However, in a survey with a sample of journalists in 2018, a significant number of respondents reported that there is an effort to tone down articles critical of the Duterte regime or to ‘avoid antagonizing’ the administration (Estella, 2018).