VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte exaggerates number of poor in PH

President Rodrigo Duterte greatly overstated the proportion of impoverished Filipinos in the country after urging local leaders and medical professionals to deliver timely health services to the poor.


Speaking at the groundbreaking event of a new general hospital in Malabon on Jan. 29, Duterte said:

“Poor, poor, poor talaga, ‘yan kasi 98% poor tayo. Ang two percent nayan, billion-billion nasa kamay ng iilang tao lang sa Pilipinas (Poor, poor, poor really because we’re 98 percent poor. The remaining two percent, billions are in the hands of just a few people in the country).

Source: PCOO, Speech at the groundbreaking ceremony of the new site of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital, Jan. 29, 2019, watch from 33.24-33:40.


Where the president got his data was not clear, but the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) two main poverty indicators — poverty incidence and subsistence incidence — do not bear out his claim.

According to the country’s latest poverty information, poverty incidence among Filipinos in 2015 was recorded at 21.6 percent, while subsistence incidence was at 8.1 percent.

Poverty incidence is defined by the PSA as the proportion of people living below the poverty line to the total population. This means that in 2015, some 21.93 million, or one in five Filipinos, could not buy their basic food and nonfood needs.

Subsistence incidence is referred to as the proportion of Filipinos living in extreme poverty. In 2015, 8.93 million Filipinos could not afford to buy even their basic food needs.

The PSA has been publishing reports on official poverty statistics every three years since 2006. The proportion of Filipinos considered poor and subsistence poor have been on a steady decline since then.

The president’s false claim ironically contradicts a Dec. 5 online video endorsing his former aide, senatorial candidate Christopher “Bong” Go. The video wrongly claimed that poverty and hunger in the country had been fully eradicated under Duterte’s term. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Bong Go video makes unsupported claim about hunger, poverty)




Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Rodrigo Duterte, Speech during the groundbreaking ceremony of the new site of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital, Jan. 29, 2019

Philippine Statistics Authority, Poverty incidence among Filipinos registered at 21.6% in 2015 — PSA,Oct. 27, 2018

Philippine Statistics Authority, Official Poverty Statistics of the Philippines, Oct. 27, 2016



(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.)