Franco Mabanta, the “social media strategist” of former Sen. Bongbong Marcos, was schooled by a psychiatrist when he said that climate activist Greta Thunberg has “multiple mental illnesses” such as autism.
The exchange happened in the comments section of Mabanta’s Facebook post, which appeared to be a reference to the controversial Barretto sisters’ feud captioned: “Keeping Up With The Gretas #TeamGretaHo”
Mabanta’s post featured four “Gretas,” namely Greta Thunberg, Gretchen Barretto, Gretchen Ho and Gretchen Diez.
He posted it when the Barretto sisters made headlines and captured national interest with the controversial scuffle among them that happened during their father’s wake.
When a particular Facebook user commented that one of the Gretas, Thunberg, is “mentally challenged,” Mabanta wasted no time agreeing with her.
“It’s true, she has multiple mental illnesses like autism and I think Asperger’s but that’s not what’s bothersome to me,” he said.
However, another Facebook user reminded them that autism is not in any way a mental illness.
“Autism is not a mental illness. It’s a developmental disorder. Please educate yourself — it’s your ‘advocacy’ pa naman,” user Kay Tea said.
Mabanta retorted back by saying, “Wrong. You’re ignorant.”
The user replied that she is a certified adult and child psychiatrist, which made him took back his words.
“Nope. I would think twice before calling a double board-certified adult and child psychiatrist ignorant,” user Kay Tea said.
Mabanta responded, “I just rechecked. Always happy to be corrected when I’m wrong. My sincere apologies and thanks for the heads up.”
The Facebook user’s sister shared a screenshot of the online exchange and said that Mabanta got “burned.”
Cretin dissing Greta Thunberg gets burned by my sister pic.twitter.com/nATTYRoHYK
— Maggie C (@magscostello) October 30, 2019
However, Mabanta in February 2019 shared an Instagram post that promoted a sports development program that he says helps children with autism and Down syndrome, among others.
He reiterated on Friday on Twitter that he has been involved in a foundation for children with autism.
We're fully recognized by the PH government; I've personally helped sustain the institution financially over the years; we've grown the foundation from 12 kids half a decade ago to over 300 kids today, with over 100 volunteers across the world.)
— Franco Cruz Mabanta (@FrancoMabanta) October 31, 2019
Some Twitter users called him out for his contradictory stance on Thunberg.
— Jose Ruperto Martir (@AltPCOOSec) October 30, 2019
This is not the first time that Mabanta earned the ire of some social media users.
Last year, he announced that he was “100% in favor of pro-fat-shaming,” unaware of the psychological implications of bullying obese people.
On Greta Thunberg and autism
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teen climate activist who gained international recognition for urging governments and corporations to address the climate crisis.
She is the face behind the “Fridays for Future” movement that encouraged students to mobilize and demand action on climate change from their governments.
Thunberg started the advocacy when she learned about the consequences of climate change in the near future if governments will continue to dismiss and downplay its implications.
She is also diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder that impairs social interaction, developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors.
People with such a condition thrive on routines and the ability to predict the outcomes of particular behaviors and places, according to Medical News Today.
They can feel overwhelmed and be prone to outbursts of anger, frustration, distress, or sadness when they experience a break in routines or get exposed to overstimulating environments.
Autism does not have a medicinal cure but it can be treated through behavioral, speech, physical or occupational therapy.