VALENZUELA CITY, Philippines — John Benvir Serag knocked on doorways within the working-class neighborhood, sporting his pink “Youth Vote for Leni” T-shirt and holding a stack of fliers. He has spent almost day-after-day previously month attempting to elucidate to strangers why Leni Robredo is the most effective individual to guide the Philippines.

“What are you searching for in a president?” Mr. Serag requested an older lady, forward of the nation’s presidential election in Might.

“After all, somebody who doesn’t steal,” she responded.

“Proper! Leni has no hint of corruption,” Mr. Serag stated. “Additionally, she isn’t a thief.”

Anybody who made eye contact with the 26-year-old Mr. Serag on this neighborhood was a gap. Questions on her proposal for clear authorities? Wanted extra details about her plans for farmers and companies?

On this election, many have come out in full drive for Ms. Robredo, the nation’s vp, who’s an outspoken critic of Mr. Duterte and a frequent goal of his insults. They’re dealing with lengthy odds, with Ms. Robredo polling a far second behind the front-runner, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the one son and namesake of the late dictator.

They’re additionally combating a wave of disinformation that has recast the Marcos dictatorship as what supporters of the youthful Marcos name a “golden age.” A few of their friends are swayed by YouTube movies that painting Mr. Marcos as a cool mum or dad, whereas some amongst an older technology are nostalgic for strongman rule.

Presidential elections within the Philippines have lengthy been a contest for the hearts of younger Filipinos. This time, not less than half of the document 65 million registered voters are between the ages of 18 and 30.

However they’ve not often been marked by this degree of ardour and depth. As of Feb. 25, two million volunteers had signed up for Ms. Robredo’s marketing campaign, in accordance with Barry Gutierrez, her spokesman. Lots of them are first-time voters or too younger to vote. Her rallies have drawn tens of 1000’s of individuals.

“It’s like my mother’s a rock star each time she goes round, and that is one thing very shocking to us,” stated Tricia Robredo, one among Ms. Robredo’s daughters. “Particularly as a result of we’ve been going off our expertise the previous six years the place my mother has been very vilified on-line.”

Dozens of teams have sprouted up, combining their shared pursuits in Okay-pop and Taylor Swift with getting the vote out for Ms. Robredo. The “Swifties4Leni” put on T-shirts with the hashtag #OnlyTheYoung, referencing Ms. Swift’s observe about youth empowerment in opposition to the “huge unhealthy man and his huge unhealthy clan.”

Lots of Ms. Robredo’s younger supporters are united of their want to forestall one other Marcos from turning into president. Other than the human rights abuses dedicated throughout his father’s 20-year rule, Mr. Marcos — who is thought by his nickname, Bongbong — has been convicted of tax fraud, refused to pay his household’s property taxes, and misrepresented his schooling at Oxford College.

Ms. Robredo, a lawyer and an economist, beat Mr. Marcos narrowly in 2016 to win the vice presidency, which is individually elected from the presidency. She has vowed to cease the extrajudicial killings within the drug battle. In the course of the pandemic, she despatched medical tools to sufferers and dispatched provides to frontliners. She has helped marginalized communities and is normally one of many first prime officers to go to disaster-stricken websites.

Maybe the most important problem dealing with Ms. Robredo’s younger volunteers has been the wave of disinformation that has lionized the Marcos period and vilified Ms. Robredo as a communist. Spliced movies have additionally portrayed her as stuttering and unintelligent.

Tsek.ph, an unbiased fact-checking challenge within the Philippines, discovered that Mr. Marcos has benefited probably the most from disinformation this yr, whereas Ms. Robredo has been its largest sufferer to this point. The group stated that of greater than 200 election-related posts it analyzed, 94 % focused Ms. Robredo; solely 10 % went after Mr. Marcos.

“It’s a little bit late for us to struggle that disinformation,” stated Mr. Serag, a junior highschool trainer who goes by V.J. “However we’re nonetheless doing it, even when it’s a little bit too late. That’s what pushed me to be energetic.”

On a current Thursday, Mr. Serag led a staff of 20 different volunteers within the neighborhood of Gen T. de Leon, the place posters of Mr. Marcos and his operating mate, Sara Duterte, the president’s daughter, had been plastered exterior many properties.

Only a week earlier than, a number of of Mr. Marcos’s supporters within the subsequent neighborhood had dumped a bucket of water on them.

“What are you searching for in a president?” Mr. Serag requested a middle-aged lady who runs a stall.

“Somebody who can assist us discover jobs,” the lady replied.

“Leni has put aside a finances of 100 million for small and medium enterprises and relating to employment —” Mr. Serag started, earlier than he was lower off.

“Isn’t Leni a ‘yellow?’” the lady requested, referring to the “yellow” Liberal Celebration. The celebration of the Aquino household, which has produced two former presidents, has been seen by some as an elitist group that has failed to enhance the lives of peculiar Filipinos.

“No, she’s unbiased,” Mr. Serag responded. He pressed on: “Even when we put off the political colours, yellow or no matter, let’s take into consideration what she actually has performed. She actually has helped numerous communities.”

The youth vote stays divided between Ms. Robredo and Mr. Marcos. Many younger individuals stay huge followers of Mr. Marcos — a survey has proven that seven out of 10 Filipinos aged 18 to 24 want him to be president. The nation’s textbooks dwell little on the atrocities of the Marcos period. Mr. Marcos’s younger supporters say they take pleasure in watching his YouTube movies, which frequently characteristic his household in game-show segments.

One volunteer on Mr. Serag’s staff, Jay Alquizar, 22, had a speaker blasting a rap and pop jingle touting Ms. Robredo’s achievements, which he carted by means of the streets. A bunch of teenage boys cycled previous him. Some shouted Mr. Marcos’s initials: “BBM, BBM!”

Mr. Alquizar spoke into his microphone. “We’re not right here for a struggle, we simply wish to encourage you,” he stated. “That’s what we see because the younger. It is advisable see that, too. As a result of the longer term isn’t just for you. It’s for the following technology.”

Mr. Alquizar stated he was impressed, partially, by his grandfather, a former police officer, who was tortured in the course of the Marcos regime after talking out in opposition to human rights violations. “The phrase ‘sorry’ from the Marcos household,” he stated in an interview. “We simply wish to hear that from them.”

In previous elections, the youths within the Philippines had been principally involved about bread-and-butter points reminiscent of jobs. They had been typically pissed off by the political dynasties that dominated the institution, however felt there was little they might do to vary it. Youth turnout within the 2016 election was about 30 %, in contrast with 82 % for the overall inhabitants.

Maria Tinao, 16, a highschool scholar within the metropolis of Caloocan, stated she was at all times disillusioned about politics, believing officers had joined authorities simply to complement themselves. A self-professed “pageant fanatic,” she had been extra targeted on successful magnificence contests and listening to Okay-pop than occupied with her nation’s leaders.

Then in 2017, Kian Loyd delos Santos was shot twice within the head.

His loss of life shook Ms. Tinao. He was 17. The law enforcement officials who shot him had been found guilty of his murder.

In January, Ms. Tinao noticed an interview with Ms. Robredo and was impressed. She began researching the vp’s stance on the drug battle. Though she was too younger to vote, she wished to work on swaying individuals who might.

“We wish a change, an actual change for this nation,” Ms. Tinao stated.

For the following few months, Ms. Tinao was relentless in speaking about Ms. Robredo’s insurance policies to her mom.

“I used to be irritated at first,” stated Monica Tinao, 43, a volunteer church employee, who was contemplating voting for Isko Moreno, the mayor of Manila.

However she remained curious in regards to the attraction of Ms. Robredo. In March, she determined to attend a rally for the candidate. She noticed the younger volunteers distribute free meals and water. Her daughter was in entrance of the stage.

That night time, the elder Ms. Tinao, who lives in a neighborhood of Marcos supporters, discovered her daughter’s banner selling Ms. Robredo and strung it up on her entrance gate.

Jason Gutierrez and Camille Elemia contributed reporting.