Duterte denies campaign deals with Cambridge Analytica

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 13) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he would have lost the 2016 presidential elections if he had partnered with political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

The President denied his team worked with the firm behind the massive Facebook data breach scandal.

"Wala man akong alam. Hindi ko man kilala 'yan... Tsaka bakit ako magbayad sa mga ugok na taga-Cambridge ang magtrabaho para sa kampanya ko? Mas lalo akong matalo niyan," he said in Davao City upon his arrival from the Boao Forum for Asia in China and working visit to Hong Kong.

[Translation: I don't know them... Why would I work with those fools from Cambridge to work on my campaign? If I teamed up with them, I would have lost.]

Duterte received over 16 million votes during the presidential elections in May 2017, over 6.6 million more than his closest rival, Mar Roxas.

Duterte's 2016 presidential campaign team was photographed with Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix in March 2015 — more than a year before the national elections. The photo shows Nix sharing a meal with Duterte campaign team members Jose Gabriel "Pompee" La Viña and Peter La Viña, then National Press Club President Joel Egco, and Atty. Taipan Millan.

Pompee La Viña, Duterte's Social Media Campaign Director, clarified the story behind the photo.

"The NPC invited us to go. We were reaching out to the NPC because Mayor Duterte then was weighing a run for (the) presidency, and we were in the media, and Peter La Viña was Head of Media so he wanted to connect and renew his membership to the NPC," he told CNN Philippines' On The Record on Thursday.

Cambridge Analytica's parent firm, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), also wrote on its website that it helped get an unnamed Philippine presidential candidate elected in 2016 by presenting him as a "strong, no-nonsense man of action" to appeal to the voters.

But Duterte insisted he was not linked to the company that was reportedly working to develop techniques to influence voters.

"Wala 'yan. Kalokohan 'yan (That's not true). I will not trust Cambridge," he said.

Cambridge Analytica is in hot water for its unauthorized harvesting of over 87 million Facebook personal data worldwide. In the Philippines, the personal data of 1.2 million Facebook users have been compromised, the National Privacy Commission said.

In its recent meeting with Facebook representatives, the NPC required them to provide updates on measures taken to address risks involved in the data breach.

There are over 67 million Facebook accounts in the Philippines, according to a 2018 report by UK-based consultancy firm We Are Social.