VERA FILES FACT CHECK: De Lima DID NOT beg Duterte to free her from detention

A fabricated statement attributed to Sen. Leila De Lima is circulating on Facebook (FB) days after high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian was reported to have died inside the National Bilibid Prison on July 18 due to complications from COVID-19.

Several Facebook (FB) pages published a graphic featuring an image of De Lima next to a concocted sentence asking how Sebastian was infected with the novel coronavirus and pleading with President Rodrigo Duterte to release her as she is “afraid of being cremated next. ”

This is fake.

A keyword search online shows De Lima never made this statement. Instead, in a July 20 press release, she said her legal team is still assessing the impact of Sebastian’s death on the drug-related cases filed against her, adding that “testimonies coming from inmates and other so-called witnesses against her are all fabricated anyway.”

Sebastian is one of the state witnesses against the senator; he also testified in a 2016 probe by the House of Representatives on the illegal drug trade inside the Bilibid prison.

In the July 20 dispatch from her detention cell, De Lima also restated her call to improve conditions inside Philippine jails especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

FB pages Moñita and Duterte Knights published the same edited quote card, imitating News 5 Aksyon’s graphic layout. A reverse image search shows that it used a 2016 photo of the opposition senator delivering her privilege speech denouncing the killings of innocents and drug-related suspects by vigilante assassins.

De Lima has been detained at Camp Crame since February 2017 and is facing three charges related to drug trafficking that allegedly took place while she was Justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.

The fake graphic has had almost 2,600 interactions on FB, according to social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle. It was shared by another FB page Duterte-Marcos Real Change and FB groups Imee Marcos Global Supporter️, LABAN PARA SA BAYAN, Filipino Ako, KAY PRES. DUTERTE SUPPORTERS AKO. and Go Bong Go.

Moñita and Duterte Knights were created April 8, 2019 and Aug. 4, 2017, respectively.

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