Duterte election team did not pay Cambridge Analytica for campaign services – Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 10) — The campaign team of President Rodrigo Duterte did not pay for the services of political data firm Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 elections, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

He said Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez did not have dealings with the controversial company involved in the massive Facebook data breach. Dominguez was then campaign treasurer.

"The Secretary of Finance, in his capacity as treasurer of the PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) campaign, assures that he did not pay anything to Cambridge Analytica nor did he transact with them," Roque said in a statement.

The South China Morning Post reported on April 4 the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), 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.

The SCL website page has been taken down, but the international news site was able to retrieve its archived versions.

The SCL web content read, "In the run up to national elections the incumbent client was widely perceived as both kind and honorable, qualities his campaign team thought were potentially election-winning. But SCL's research showed that many groups within the electorate were more likely to be swayed by qualities such as toughness and decisiveness. SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters."

Duterte is known for his tough stance against illegal drugs, corruption, and terrorist, among other issues. The clenched iron-fist hand gesture quickly became a symbol to show support for the President.

In a separate report, South China Morning Post also revealed that in May 2015 a board director of Strategic Communications Laboratories dined with men who will become key figures in Duterte's presidential campaign.

It said former Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix met with Jose Gabriel "Pompee" La Viña and Peter Tiu Laviña, who became Duterte's social media director and campaign spokesperson respectively during the 2016 national elections.

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

Related: PH privacy commission probes Facebook data breach

The controversial data firm also worked for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported Cambridge Analytica was working to develop techniques that could be used to influence voters.

Roque said the tough-talking Duterte was immensely supported — social media included — during his campaign.

"Support for the former Davao City Mayor was from all sectors and not just from Facebook or online; thus, the Duterte campaign did not have to purchase information," he said.

Related: Duterte, the social media president

The presidential spokesperson said the public should respect the win of Duterte — who won the election with over 16 million votes — instead of questioning his victory with unverified reports.

"We should respect the President's landslide victory, which was a result of the trust and confidence of the Filipino people, and not undermine it with unsubstantiated allegations," he said.

To shed more light on the data breach scandal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the U.S. Senate at 2:15 p.m. ET on April 10 (Wednesday, 2:15 AM, PHT), and the House hearing at 10 a.m. ET on April 11 (Wednesday, 10 PM, PHT).