President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address in July 2018. Photo by King Rodriguez, PCOO.

VERA FILES FACT CHECK YEARENDER: Duterte is our most fact-checked figure in 2018; here are patterns that emerged from his false claims

Read this fact check in Filipino

President Rodrigo Duterte made a lot of false claims in 2018.

His inaccurate remarks, off-the-cuff gaffes and flip-flops made up one in five of VERA Files’ fact-checks for the year, more than any other public personality.

Three patterns emerge from our reports.

Duterte makes a lot of false claims about his war on drugs

The president loves to talk about the war on illegal drugs he has been waging since his election in 2016.

Yet despite being the government’s centerpiece policy, the issue is where he has blundered the most.

In March, Duterte said 1,000 enforcers have been killed in anti-drug operations, and repeated the claim in August.

His number is way off the mark and not supported by Real Numbers PH, the government’s official figures on the war on drugs.

In a press briefing August 17, police spokesperson Benigno Durana Jr. said 87 law enforcers have been killed in drug operations. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ‘Real Numbers PH’ update contradicts Duterte’s claim )

The president also kept revising his number of Filipinos addicted to drugs.

In March, he said there were 1.6 million; in speeches in South Korea and in Jerusalem, three million; and in subsequent speeches, either 1.5 million or 1.6 million. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: How many drug addicts are there in PH? Let Duterte do the counting)

A nationwide Dangerous Drugs Board survey released in 2016 found there were 1.8 million current drug users in the country.

Duterte could also not seem to get it right even when attributing figures.

Citing as source his former police and corrections chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, the president said there are 1.6 million drug war surrenderees.

It’s 1.3 million surrenderees, by Dela Rosa’s count. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa, Duterte make contradicting claims on drug war surrenderees)

Duterte makes different claims for different audiences

Especially regarding his campaign promises, Duterte depending on his audience has made sweeping claims in some speeches only to later downplay or take these back.

His anti-corruption drive narrative has been shifting.

He told the country in his State of the Nation Addresses and overseas Filipino workers in Malaysia he would tolerate “not even a whiff” of corruption during his term, but then told local government officials he would only minimize corruption. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: In his own words: Duterte’s anti-corruption drive)

His peace agenda with Communist Party of the Philippines has also varied, again depending on his audience.

In some speeches, Duterte has said his government is open to the resumption of negotiations, despite the current peace talks impasse, yet has attacked the Reds in speeches before members of the military.

Duterte’s stance on ending labor contractualization has also evolved since he took office in 2016.

From standing firm to ending endo, Duterte has backtracked to “compromising with capitalists” in a later speech.

He repeats false claims, a few times in just one speech

Duterte is not only VERA Files’ most fact-checked public figure in 2018.

He also has the dubious honor of being the government official with most number of false claims in a single speech, per our count.

In a Nov. 11 speech, the president unloaded nine false claims about the International Criminal Court, the war on drugs, juvenile justice, U.S. aid and the first oil field in the country.

He repeated five of these false claims Dec. 5 and made three false claims on the ICC Nov. 15.

(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.)

FOR FURTHER READING

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa, Duterte make contradicting claims on drug war surrenderees

'Bato' says 1.3 million, Duterte 1.6 million.

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: PNP Chief Dela Rosa understates war on drugs figures

Dela Rosa’s figures do not match the ostensibly “real numbers” on the war on drugs published by the…

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ‘Real Numbers PH’ update contradicts Duterte’s claim

Duterte said 1,000 policemen and soldiers died because of drugs.

About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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