The CMFR report on the coverage of the PH campaign and elections

THE MEDIA community in the country and in many parts of the world have not engaged much in the collective exercise of questioning how journalists do their work, or to evaluate the established practice. The news conventions that determine what gets in as news have not been reviewed. We have not asked whether we are still on point, fulfilling the purpose or aspiring for the goals set in the past by journalists; as watchdog of power or the delivery of relevant news so citizens can be better informed and prepared to participate in public affairs/governance.

Journalists may claim to work together; covering news means being in the same place and time of the events they report. But even with this imposed proximity at work, the community is never quite united, taking different sides on issues, and different mindsets. There has been little attempt of editorial leaders reaching across their organizations to build up a consensus on what needs to be done, or if anything needs to be done.

It is in this context that we present the findings of the media monitor and the analysis of its quantitative as well as qualitative content to the coverage of the electoral exercise from the campaign up to May 9. 

The vote after all is the central political act of every citizen in a democracy. All political matters may culminate in the vote. If the news media play a role in public affairs and in society, the review of how we did our work is, I think, a good place to begin to determine how we move forward. 

As we have just experienced what has been described widely as a consequential election, it would be good for the press to evaluate the coverage and to determine for themselves what the press community will have to do in reporting the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. His election restored the Marcos name to power, the same name and family forced out of Malacanang Palace, driven to live in exile from the country in 1986. 

CMFR’s used both quantitative and qualitative (discourse) analysis to measure reports and to illustrate with evidence how well the media served the public’s need for information and news that will help them evaluate the worthiness of candidates seeking their vote. 

CA in journalism is a research method that involves purposive sampling, measuring and analysis of text.

 This method has been sharpened to actually determine the content or meaning, the slant of news and opinion, the treatment of subject and news sources, reflecting the dominant elements at play in the gathering of news.

CMFR’s media monitor and its other programs are practice-based. We analyze the data that we gather and interpret what it means. 

(CMFR held a roundtable discussion exclusively for members of the media on July 14, 2022, to engage journalists, their editors and news directors in an exchange of views about the electoral and editorial experience as well as their responses to the review.)

Media and Elections

Background of CMFR’s media monitoring program

The Media Monitor has been a flagship program of CMFR since its establishment in 1989. It has published its findings in the Philippine Journalism Review (PJR) which was our print edition, and in the Philippine Journalism Review Reports (PJR Reports). PJRR regularly uploads articles and other information on media performance on the CMFR website.

CMFR has conducted content of campaign/election coverage since 1992, but these were limited to national (Manila-based) print media. The findings were published in the PJR only at the end of the elections. The very first was done by a veteran journalist, Monica Feria, who worked and supervised a team from the UP College of Mass Communication (UPCMC). 

In 2004 and again in 2007, CMFR pursued a more ambitious project which involved uploading its findings every two weeks; to enhance the impact of review on the actual coverage. It engaged civil society organizations and academic institutions as partners. In 2004, CMFR included television news programs in its monitor. In 2007, the project expanded to include: broadsheets, television news programs, selected tabloids, radio programs, online sites, even political advertisements. But we have not always been able to secure the kind of funding to do this expanded review. 

We have always tried to hold post-project discussions of the findings and recommendations in the monitor.

The CMFR 2010 monitor included community press coverage, primarily Cebu, where the press has a strong institutional presence within a highly profitable and influential media market.

We found that in general, news organizations are most receptive, with one  Ombudsman appointed by a leading newspaper expressing his complete agreement with our findings and our analysis. 

Our work has always depended on funding, provided variously by private donors, by The Asia Foundation, and by Democracy Institute. Sometime in 2008, the NED provided institutional funding for our work in general, not specifically for any project. This year, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) also provided some funds for media monitoring. So it is a consortium of funders, and not one single agency, that supported the project of monitoring. And none had anything to do with the framework of the activity, which had already been set up independently by CMFR. 



The 2022 election coverage project focused on TV, given the impact of its programs and its primacy as a source of news and political information. But we did monitor for discourse analysis print and online media.  

CMFR reviewed and analyzed primetime news programs of four broadcast stations on free TV: GMA-7’s 24 Oras and 24 Oras Weekend, ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol and TV Patrol Weekend, CNN Philippines’ News Night and Newsroom Weekend, and TV5’s Frontline Pilipinas (no weekend newscast) during the campaign period, from February 8 to May 6, 2022

CMFR counted the number of campaign/election-related reports, the coverage (number of reports), the number of reports when a candidate is quoted as a source, themes or topics discussed in the report, and slant, the number of reports that are positively or negatively slanted on or against a candidate. CMFR counted as positive for a candidate when the story featured the candidate exclusively in a story, even if treatment is straightforward.

Election Related Reports

From February 8 to May 6, all free TV news programs produced a total of 1,972 reports on the elections or 36.94 percent of the total of 5,338 reports made up from combined news holes. TV Patrol and TV Patrol Weekend had 650 reports or 38.12 percent of the total number of news reports aired in the program; 24 Oras and 24 Oras Weekend had 645 or 34.74 percent of its newshole; News Night and Newsroom Weekend had 433 or 42 percent; and Frontline Pilipinas had 244 or 32 percent.

  • Coverage focused mainly on presidential candidates
  • Media did not give much time to Senatorial candidates. There was no attempt to present who were the re-electionists, the new names or new blood in politics. Only one special report out of the newscasts called attention to the growth of dynasties and their various representatives running for government positions; much less the record of their terms or public service. Media reported on individual candidates only when they were involved in controversies, when they topped surveys, or when they were endorsed by public figures or prominent personalities.


  • Media focused on the campaign trail: Reports showed what the candidates or their supporters did; what they said; including what was promised. This made up 54.16 percent of the total reports.
  • Media assigned reporters per Presidential candidate. If there were no scheduled events, media reported press releases or statements issued by candidates.
  • The coverage also focused on political and election-related controversies, endorsements and personalities who were present in the rally or activity. 
  • Only a few reports focused separately on development and policy issues. CMFR noted the campaign trail reports that led with a policy issue, but shifted quickly to a narration of what happened and what was said in campaign sorties. News Night in several reports highlighted important policy issues by collating different statements on a certain issue of each presidential candidate and presenting them in one report.   


CMFR noted special reports/segments in the primetime news programs that highlighted other problems and issues which were identified by communities, as a way of calling candidates’ attention to these issues. 

  • CNN Philippines highlighted with separate reports the plight of the LGBT community, persons with disability, persons deprived of liberty, overseas Filipino workers, and orphans of the war in Mindanao.
  • GMA7’s segment “Dapat Totoo” engaged in voter education, focusing on election laws, political dynasties which have grown in size and which now dominate the entire political structure, including the party list system, the importance of the youth vote, and dis-information as part of campaign messages.
  • ABS-CBN’s segment “KampanyaSerye” examined each presidential candidate, their political careers and what their main policy programs could be should they win the presidency.
  • TV5’s “News ExplainED,” while not really an election segment, had some features which provided background on electoral issues. 

These in-depth reports helped to educate voters and deserved more airtime from other news organizations.

CMFR’s media monitor includes other editorial products aired by the networks but this report focused only on the newscasts listed in the section on methodology. 

Election Laws and Processes

The reports on election laws and processes included Comelec’s preparations to ensure clean and safe elections. Among others, the continuing delivery of voting supplies in local hubs, the consolidation of voters registered in two different precincts, and the delisting of deceased/ “ghost” voters. 

However, the news on Comelec were all only occasioned by Comelec briefings or press cons done on the initiative of Comelec. Statements, guidelines and processes were reported only when the Comelec held events or answered them in press conferences. It could be that the Comelec was responding to questions raised by the media to the Comelec spokesperson.  In which case, it would have been good to indicate this background so as to show that Comelec was responding to a journalist’s question, not providing the information on its own. The difference will indicate to the public how the Comelec observed the requirements of disclosure and transparency. 

The preparation of the Comelec for May 9 was not probed fully or with focus. After the Comelec had been delayed in some of the phases of implementation, as well as its lack of transparency in the printing of the ballots, media reports still depended wholly on the agency for much of the information about the Comelec. There was little evidence of journalistic investigation of the weaknesses of the agency, including its own compliance with law. While there were several reports that got the views of experts and CSOs, these could not compensate for the general weakness of reporting on the quality of preparation and the openness of Comelec’s processes. 

This was the same treatment given to controversies such as the disqualification cases filed against Marcos. Media made little effort to provide analysis of the issue, refer to documented facts, or raise questions about the independence of commissioners.

Some reports on election laws were also counted as controversies involving candidates:

  • Disqualification cases filed in the Comelec against Marcos candidacy.
  • Vote-buying incidents also involving local candidates 
  • Violations of Comelec guidelines (e.g. Oplan Baklas) and health protocols.

Tracking crowd numbers

The media missed highlighting with consistency the growth of numbers or the characteristics of the crowds in the campaign rallies. Several of the supporters of Leni Robredo and Marcos boasted on social media about huge crowd sizes in presidential rallies they attended. But the media following the campaign did not include their assessment as its own. 

TV news reported crowd estimates in the rallies of Robredo and Marcos. Reports cited estimates by the campaign teams and also the police. In Robredo’s Pasig rally on March 21, organizers said that there were 140,000 attendees, while police estimates put the number at 90,000. Marcos‘ rally in Cavite on March 25 was attended by 100,000 people,  according to Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla and the city police. The Robredo rally in Pasig was reported with descriptions such as “dinagsa (flocked)” and “nag-kulay pink ang Emerald Avenue.”

But in most reports of other rallies after, the numbers were mentioned only in passing or were not mentioned at all as the news focused on what happened and what was said during the candidates’ programs. 

While the media had assigned teams to follow the campaign trails, their reports were not consistent in tracking the numbers, the notable or visible increase or decrease. There was also no attempt to compare the numbers of participants in the different campaign rallies.  Reports also did not describe the characteristics of the crowds, whether these were the same from one rally to another, whether these were “hakot” or organized by the campaign team. 

Unless the crowd numbers were consistently tracked, the numbers one rally or another of the same candidate may be meaningless. In the case of Robredo, the consistent rise of participants in what had been described as “phenomenal” numbers were found not in the mainstream media but in social media accounts.

Most Covered

Marcos and Sara Duterte were the most covered presidential and vice-presidential candidate.

Marcos was consistently the most reported and most mentioned since the start of the campaign. CMFR noted the incremental number gained from several controversies he was the subject of, including:

Although these controversies reflected negatively on Marcos, the news treatment given him was remarkably neutral. The controversial points raised against him had little negative impact and may have served to add incrementally to his media coverage. 

Other presidential candidates were also involved in political controversies/scandals. But reports on these issues were reduced to he-said-she-said treatment:

The issue of the unification talks resurfaced a few weeks into the campaign period after Ping Lacson and Isko Moreno complained about Robredo and her team supposedly asking them to withdraw to give way for the former VP’s candidacy. The media reported these allegations as mere soundbytes, with no effort to trace the line of discussion. 

The issue culminated in an Easter Sunday press conference in which the candidates called for Robredo’s withdrawal instead. Reports after the conference included the denial issued by Robredo’s campaign team that they had ever talked to any of the candidates about withdrawing after a failed unification talk prior to the COC filing.

The media hardly noted in the news the attempts at unification made by Robredo and her team before candidates filed their certificates of candidacy. Reports did not note that the allegations and attacks against Robredo during the Easter Sunday press conference  happened after several groups supporting Lacson and Moreno had defected in favor of the VP’s candidacy.

VP Candidates

CMFR notes that the coverage of the campaign trail usually reported on the presidential and the vice-presidential tandems. But in most of the stories, the reports only focused on the presidential candidate. Among the VP candidates, Duterte was the most covered. Reports on her included her controversial banning of political caravans in Davao City and several endorsements for VP with a different presidential candidate (mixed tandem). 

Most Quoted

News quoted Moreno, Robredo and Lacson more than any other Presidential candidates. But Moreno had the edge. Moreno’s quotes included his snarky comments, calling Robredo the “godmother of bullies” when she tried forming a united front against the administration. He specifically targeted Robredo and Marcos, the latter an object of his jabs. 

Robredo’s quotes included her response to several issues thrown against her. 

While Marcos was the subject of most reports, he was mum on the issues thrown against him and said he would rather talk about his platforms because that’s “what people want to know.”  


CMFR counted as positive for the aspirant when he or she was featured exclusively in a story, even if given straightforward treatment. (For example, what a candidate said or did during an event.)

During the entire period, Robredo got the most positive slants, 279 or 45 percent of the 620 reports about her. Marcos closely followed with 262 or 39.58 percent of the 662 reports about him; Isko with 227 or 48.92 percent of the 464 reports; Pacquiao with 220 or 53.92 percent of 408 reports; and Lacson with 188 or 43.82 percent of the 429 reports.

Marcos had the most number of negative slants with 30, followed by Robredo with 21 and Moreno with six.

Although Robredo and Marcos got more negative slants among other presidential candidates, both had been mentioned or had been the subject of a high number of neutral reports: Marcos in 370 reports and Robredo in 320. 

These numbers gave them more media mileage compared to the other candidates.



CMFR reviewed the coverage of the leading Manila broadsheets (Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, and Manila Bulletin), as well as three others (The Daily Tribune, The Manila Times, and Manila Standard) and their online platforms, as well as online media Rappler, PCIJ, Altermidya, Bulatlat, and Mindanews from February 8 to May 6, 2022.


Underwhelming, Stuck in He Said-She Said

  • Print media started the campaign trail with colorful front pages but soon stuck to its formulaic reporting that included the “who, what and where” of the campaign stops, notes on their stance on various development and policy issues, and the endorsement of local officials and groups. 
  • Print media focused their efforts and resources on the five candidates who were better known, making hardly any effort to include presidential candidates Leody De Guzman, Norberto Gonzales, Ernie Abella, Faisal Mangondato, and Jose Montemayor Jr. This is unlike in TV where De Guzman had some coverage.
  • The regional/provincial sections were not utilized to present local and regional issues that could have been covered and reported more extensively by locally-based correspondents. 
  • Coverage echoed what Comelec officials and former President Duterte said. Only a few reports provided other sources such as civil society and election watchdogs.
  • In contrast to TV reportage, senatorial candidates and their positions in issues were given more prominence in print. But while some reports were news-worthy, most reports were puff pieces and press releases pretending to be news. Only the more well-known senatorial candidates were also given print space.
  • A few reports in print did more to break away from the campaign and the official statements: providing a closer look into political dynasties in the regions or the role of the youth vote. But these reports were outnumbered by the reports mentioned above.  

Tribune and Times’ preferential treatment?

The Content Analysis highlighted the divide between the media, showing the clear bias of some media outfits. Tribune’s and Times’ front pages showed a pattern and featured Marcos almost daily all throughout the period. 

Headlines included not only the results of surveys, but also direct quotes from the candidate. Their reports also featured endorsements from local officials and favorable reactions expressed by other officials to Marcos’ sustained lead in the surveys. 

Also included in its front-page reports were the red-tagging of Robredo and her supporters by incumbent officials. The red-tagging story was also picked up by Manila Standard, but not as frequent as Tribune and Times.


Despite some lapses that occurred in the attempt to keep up with the fast-paced environment of online news or to carry erroneous reports from print counterparts, it was indeed online media that OUTDID print and broadcast media by publishing in-depth reports, explainers, and fact-checks, among many more.

Fact checks vs misinformation

Compared to print, online media did well in matching up to the speed and spread of mis- and dis-information in the online sphere. Fact checks were issued regularly and circulated widely, maximizing their effectiveness to correct viral false claims made in debates or in the social media space.


The Wag Kukurap’s Elections 2022 Pledge, aims to encourage journalists “to provide accurate, reliable and essential information that will empower voters and encourage public discussion and debate.”  The pledge was publicized in July 2021 and has since gathered the signatures of more than 400 individual journalists and media organizations, including those from the news organizations reviewed by CMFR for this study.

The pledge raised important points as a guide in covering the 2022 elections:

  • Put voters and the integrity of the electoral process at the center of our reporting.

Instead, time and resources were given to what the campaign teams had manufactured as activities during the rallies. 

  • Examine the track record and qualifications of candidates and political parties vying for public office and hold them accountable for the veracity and honesty of their every statement and promise.

The quantitative count of reports that did this was definitely a small number. As this can be done easily enough, it might be interesting to discuss why this is not an integral part of campaign reporting. 

  • Challenge and correct statements and claims that have no basis in fact. 

We think the media could have done more fact-checks of narratives or content in social media or as actually recorded or said live. 

  • Highlight the efforts of the public and private sectors to uphold the honesty and  integrity of elections.

CMFR noted how the sources from established election watchdog organizations were hardly consulted/interviewed extensively. The different efforts of NGOs and of schools were hardly covered.

  • Contextualize reporting on surveys and the winnability of candidates. We will not report on surveys without verifying the source of the polling data, the track record of the companies conducting the polls, the methodologies used, and the questions asked. 

All surveys released were reported but with little information on the questions included in the pledge.

  • Focus on voter education, citizen participation and empowerment.
    Organize and report on town halls and debates and encourage candidates and citizens to take part in them.


Given the general treatment of the campaign and election coverage, it was surprising to hear about the disappointment of media members in the results. CMFR monitors noted the gloom that descended in several studios reporting at the end of election day which showed the highly emotional and personal disappointment, sadness even, about the electoral win of BBM. 

CMFR’s bi-weekly reports on the coverage reflected the failure of the pledge to focus on voters, to question and to check mis- or dis-information. 

There seems to be a disconnect perhaps in how journalists appreciate or understand the impact of their coverage, how this can make a difference with the development of voters who can make good and wise choices. 


These recommendations are being made in solidarity with much of the media community’s commitment to enhancing public awareness and understanding of election issues and electoral processes.

They are also being made in the context of the vast changes in communication, journalism, and the global and national contexts in which journalists have to function.

CMFR has made some of them before and some have been adopted in some of the media’s practice.

We are not taking credit for that development; rather do we recognize that it is happening as a logical outcome of the need to enhance the educative function of the media, specially during the frequent elections that we have in the Philippines. 

We recommend that the media: 

On campaign and election reporting

  • Provide articles and analyses on the backgrounds and track records of candidates upon their declaration of their intention to run for public office.  
  • Remind the electorate of these records m as the campaign proceeds, particularly as election day nears. This is already being done but is a practice that could still be enhanced.
  • Minimize coverage of the campaign trail; heighten the focus on the electorate instead, particularly the voiceless and the marginalized by – 
  • Identifying the issues of concern of various sectors that candidates should address
  • Evaluating and fact checking candidates’ claims as to their veracity and the possibility of their addressing these concerns

Keeping in focus the following: 

  • Enhance coverage of campaign fund sources to include investigative reports on who and what groups are the biggest contributors to which candidates, and look into what their political and economic interests are;
  • Make social media and blogs a regular beat towards verifying the claims of bloggers and other online influencers
  • Provide more interpretive news: Remind reporters of the need not only to report the facts but also to evaluate them and explain what they mean the rest of society

Between campaign/election seasons

  • Do not wait for the next electoral season to report on the amendments that are needed in the electoral law.  
  • Begin reporting on the need to revise and update election law:
    Among others, 
    • What they say about the qualifications of candidates for certain posts. 
    • Addressing the issue of “premature campaigning”
    • Reviewing the need for  a “run-off” vote.
  •  Engage more closely with academia for the sake of learning from each other and to encourage the updated training of prospective practitioners and changes in school media literacy programs
  • Review the conventions of journalism as they have been taught in journalism courses and learned by practitioners towards enhancing interpretation and analysis over the demands of “objectivity” and the “just the facts” approach in news reporting 
  • Review the understanding of Objectivity as a rule/guideline