VERA FILES FACT CHECK:  Fil-Am philanthropist not behind Leni Robredo’s Harvard fellowship

A Facebook (FB) page has claimed that former vice president Leni Robredo’s appointment as a Hauser Leader at Harvard Kennedy School is a result of her connection with Filipina-American businesswoman and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis. This is not true.

The Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership (CPL), which officially appointed Robredo as one of the Five Hauser Leaders for Fall 2022, says the program undertakes a rigorous selection process for its fellows.

“The Center for Public Leadership engages in an independent, internal, multi-stage vetting and selection process for the Hauser Leaders, which our multidisciplinary faculty and staff lead,” CPL’s Director of Communications & External Relations Clayton M. McCleskey told VERA Files.

On Sept 5, an FB post insinuated it was Lewis who invited Robredo to the Harvard program.

Ay, na-post! Thank you, Manay Loida Nicolas Lewis for the invite for #LenLen in Harvard! See the connection?” ‘It doesn’t have to be true. It just need (sic) to look like it.’ #AlamNaThis #KayaPala #Budol #Scam #PangUuto #Panlilinlang #Panloloko #Pambubudol.


(Oops, Posted! Thank you, Manay Loida Nicolas Lewis for the invite for #Lenlen in Harvard! See the connection? ‘It doesn’t have to be true. It just need (sic) to look like it.’ #NowWeKnow #That’sWhy #Swindle #Scam #Misleading #Deceiving #Fraud.)

The post carried a screenshot of a Wikipedia entry on the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation set up by Loida’s late husband, which she now chairs. It detailed Reginald’s 1993 donations to Harvard Law School and how the law school renamed its International Legal studies building to Reginald F. Lewis (RFL) International Law Center the same year. 

The post implied that Reginald’s donations to Harvard Law School and Loida’s current chairmanship of the foundation paved the way for Robredo’s appointment as a Harvard Hauser Leader. Nicolas-Lewis is a known supporter of the former vice president.

CPL denied that Loida Nicolas Lewis or the Lewis Foundations had any role in the process. 

“As part of our mission to promote principled, effective public leadership, selection of any appointments at CPL is not made by donors; the decision of who to invite to participate in the Hauser Leaders program is made solely by the leadership of the center and the Kennedy School,” CPL said.  

The erroneous FB post surfaced five days after CPL’s official announcement. 

The false claim was posted by Team Philippines (created on July 17, 2016), garnering 493 reactions, 117 comments and 93 shares. It was also spread by more than 150 FB pages, groups and verified profiles garnering 58,000 interactions, according to the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

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