VERA FILES FACT CHECK: DEATH HOAX on Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes still circulating despite denial

Professional pool player Efren 'Bata' Reyes is the latest victim of a death hoax, which continues to spread and deceive netizens more than a week after the Filipino billiards legend assured the public he is okay.

A site pretending to be local media network GMA (gma7-update.xyz) published the fake story on the “passing” of the world-renowned player. Facebook’s fact checking platform detected the post was first shared on Jan. 16. Despite denials from his family, the post is still drawing interest among netizens who continue to share the hoax.

The fabricated web post was headlined, “24 0RAS: EFREN 'BATA' MANALANG REYES 'THE MAGICIAN', PASSED AWAY AT THE AGE OF 65.” This, along with several other posts echoing the claim, prompted Reyes’ daughter Chelo to issue a denial on her personal FB account that day. She called the reports “fake news.”

The younger Reyes also posted two videos of her father animatedly shouting: “Okay lang ako (I’m okay)!” and “Heto po ako, buhay na buhay (I am here, and very much alive)!”


Gma7-update.xyz’s hoax shares the same modus of fake obituaries that VERA Files Fact Check has debunked in the past, which includes the use of a stopping video to draw in viewers (See: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: No, Piolo Pascual was NOT killed by carjackers).

Death hoaxes are usually motivated by money, as suggested by numerous ads present in the fake reports, according to Flemish application developer and fact checker Maarten Schenk (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: The scheme behind scams: Why death hoaxes don’t die).

For its fake story, the imposter site used a report from GMA’s primetime news show 24 Oras where one of its anchors started saying, “Pumanaw na sa edad na anim- (Died at the age of six-) ” before abruptly being cut off.


The broken clip was grabbed from a Jan. 6 24 Oras report about the death of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief Danilo Lim, who suffered cardiac arrest.

An image of Lim flashed in the original report was spuriously replaced with one of Reyes’.

Netizens also used a copy of the hoax’s thumbnail — a black graphic that bears a photo of the pool player, the words “RIP” and “1954-2021” — in their version of the falsehood. The picture was posted by the FB pages Easyflow³ and Page na siguro to? and by an FB user in the public group Davao Buy and Sell plus Trade PHONES, GADGETS AND JEWELRY, who offered their “condolences” in their captions.

The fake death reports came shortly after a young artist gave Reyes a charcoal drawing of him playing pool. The video of the turnover, posted on Jan. 15, went viral with over 9,500 interactions.

Gma7-update.xyz published its hoax several times. FB's fact check tool estimates that one version still had about 9,000 views in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile, the versions published by the FB users and pages collectively garnered over a thousand shares.

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

FOR FURTHER READING

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The site that published the hoax masquerades as a legitimate site of the GMA news program 24 Oras.

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: No, Piolo Pascual was NOT killed by carjackers

The artist is alive and well.

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Robert Downey Jr., who supposedly "died" on July 8, even posted on Instagram on July 14.

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