VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Reviving old report, website FAKES content of pope’s letter to Duterte

Pope Francis did not tell Filipino priests President Rodrigo Duterte is a good leader; neither did the Roman Catholic pontiff say priests should not “enter politics.”

A July 19 report by website Balitang Pinoy (balitangpinoy.ga) which claims so is fake. The fake news bears the ungrammatical headline:

Just In! Pope Francis to Priest in the Philippines:”Duterte is a Good Person and He Lead your country well, Priest should not be Enter Politics”

It carries a two-year old video that copy-pastes an ABS-CBN report about an exchange between Duterte and the Vatican.

The video refers to Duterte as "Davao City mayor," having been uploaded by the Youtube channel Just Stellar TV on April 4, 2016.

Duterte, then in the middle of his presidential run, drew flak for cursing the pope for supposedly causing heavy traffic during his 2015 visit to the Philippines.

Duterte’s executive assistant, Christopher Bong Go, subsequently uploaded on Facebook a letter sent by Italian Archbishop Angelo Becciu, saying the Vatican has received the then Davao-mayor’s letter, purportedly containing an apology for his remarks.

The Balitang Pinoy fake news, which could have reached more than 748,000 people, was published the day about 800 Catholic priests concluded their prayer retreat in Baguio City, done in response to Duterte’s verbal attacks against the Church.

At least three priests had been killed in the past six months, causing alarm at the worsening climate of impunity in the country.

Social media traffic to the story was largely generated by Facebook pages President Rodrigo Duterte, WBP We Blog Ph, and Unofficial: PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa.

Balitang Pinoy has been publishing stories since October 2016; Just Stellar TV was created in September 2015.


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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