As part of his trip to the US this week, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday (Manila time) — the first Philippine president to do so since Benigno Aquino III.
Marcos’ debut on the world stage saw him lobby for a UN Security Council seat for the Philippines and urge respect for international law and the UN principles of peacefully settling disputes, citing the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes. The 20-minute speech also touched on issues including climate change, the rapid development of technology, geopolitical differences, and rising inequality.
But it was not the words he spoke, but images of who stayed around to listen that some netizens zeroed in on. Photos seemed to show that many of the assembly hall seats were empty during his address, leading to speculation that a substantial number of delegates did not stay to hear his speech.
A post on Reddit, which moderators slapped with a “Correctness Doubtful” tag, showed photos of the assembly hall being mostly occupied before Marcos’ address and mostly empty during it.
“Oh my god. I can feel the secondhand embarrassment from all the way here,” one Redditor said.
“Definitely bored, even his wife was,” another commented, referring to other photos showing First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos allegedly falling asleep during her husband’s turn to speak.
“If the speech [was] really snubbed, that says a lot not only about the international community’s opinion of Marcos, but their opinion of the Philippines,” one said.
One Redditor also pointed out that people would have chosen to stay for Marcos’ speech if they were interested. “It’s simple — no one finds Marcos or his speech or his presence interesting, thus the lack of interest from other nations’ delegates to be there for his time,” they said.
Yet other users reasoned that the time stamp in the before photo indicated it was taken at 9am, when the program had just begun, and that delegates leaving the venue afterwards was a non-issue.
“[Delegates] can come and go. They have jobs to do, places to be. They hold offices. They can’t sit there full time,” one pointed out.
“Business as usual for the ‘ghost hall’ that is the UNGA,” another wrote.
One said that with other pressing world issues, such as the continued conflict in Ukraine, it was understandable that few would stay to listen to the president’s speech. “There’s a hundred different things to hurl at BBM. A poor showing in the UNGA isn’t particularly high on the list,” they added.
Meanwhile, another Redditor posted an image of empty seats during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s speech, pointing out that Marcos’ seemingly sparse audience was not an isolated incident.
“It seems that the delegates just left overtime as the assembly progressed. Let’s remember that each speech by the delegates in the UNGA is 15 to 30 minutes long. They were all probably bored or taking a break as the assembly went on,” the poster said.