VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Briones NEVER said ‘if we die, we die’ on classes opening

Netizens have been sharing an altered graphic of education secretary Leonor Briones, where she was falsely portrayed as pushing for an Aug. 24 class opening and disregarding people “who may die” because of the COVID-19 disease.

At least two versions of the doctored quote card circulated on Facebook (FB) starting July 17:

  • August 24 magbubukas na ng klase, patay kung patay (Classes will open on August 24, if we die, we die).”
  • August 24 magbubukas na ng klase kaya matira matibay (Classes will open on August 24 so those who are strong will survive).”

The versions changed Briones’ original statement made during a July 15 meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, where she said school year 2020-2021 is going to begin on Aug. 24 at the latest, in “whatever form it is.”

The “forms” of classes the secretary was referring to are alternatives to face-to-face classes – online, radio, television and modular learning or a blend of these methods, most of which have been used by the Department of Education (DepEd) for decades.

Duterte has prohibited face-to-face classes in schools, pending the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19.

ABS-CBN News made the original Briones graphic. In a post on its verified page, the news organization captioned the quote card with “Wala nang urungan ang pagsisimula ng blended learning sa Agosto 24, ayon kay Education Secretary Leonor Briones (There’s no turning back from blended learning starting August 24, according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones).

The manipulated quote cards could have reached 60 million people with social media traffic coming mostly from FB groups Cong TV & Team Payaman (Fan Group), DSWD 2nd WaVe and TUTOK to Win – sa Wowowin GMA TV Live Show.

These altered graphics also generated status updates on FB, with pages and groups sharing the same statement that read: “tuloy na daw pasukan sa august 24 sabi ni leonor briones patay na daw kung patay, ano kaming mga estudyante batang pasaway? sa covid sasabay hanggang mamatay rawstar (Leonor Briones said classes will start on August 24, even if we die. What are we, stubborn students? We will go with covid [sic] until we die rawstar [sic])!

These statements have gained almost 120,000 interactions on FB according to social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle and have been shared by at least 30 pages and groups.

DepEd has also debunked these pronouncements and warned people to be careful of sharing fake statements attributed to Briones.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)