VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Free WiFi in public places law was signed in 2017, NOT 2020

Facebook (FB) posts falsely claiming President Rodrigo Duterte “has just signed” on July 15 Republic Act 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act are making the rounds online following pronouncements by Education Secretary Leonor Briones that classes, through blended learning, will begin on Aug. 24.

RA 10929 was signed nearly three years ago on Aug. 2, 2017. The law aims to provide free internet or WiFi access in public schools, state universities and colleges, government offices, and publicly-owned transport terminals, hospitals, parks, and libraries, among others.

At least three FB pages published July 16-17 the untrue and misleading posts, featuring a 2019 photo of Duterte and text that read: “Duterte signs free internet access in public places Act. According to the Facebook Post by the Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines), the Act mandates the government, including local government units (LGUs), to provide free internet access in government offices and public places. July 15, 2020.”

Upon checking, the Presidential Communications Operations Office FB page had indeed published on July 15 a post about the law, but it said Duterte “signed the revised Republic Act 10929 in August 2017.”

That the law was signed in 2017 was not included in the graphic and caption published by the three FB pages: SARA DU30 Supporters for 2022, Federal Philippines and SARA Duterte for President Movement.

The Sara DU30 page was the first among the three to publish the misleading graphic, while the two others followed about 10 and 20 minutes later with slight modifications.

Schools will start its blended learning setup on Aug. 24, which incorporates a mix of distance learning via online, radio or TV instruction, and physical learning materials being sent to students. Duterte announced in his recent State of the Nation Address that face-to-face classes will not take place until a vaccine for the coronavirus disease becomes available.

According to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, the inaccurate graphics have collectively received about 25,300 interactions. Among its top traffic generators are FB pages Davaoeños Duterte Defender and Pres Rody Duterte Effect - The PeaceMaker. The SARA Duterte graphic was also re-uploaded by the page DJ Kokoy Martin.

SARA DU30 Supporters for 2022 was recently created on Jan. 8; SARA Duterte for President Movement on Dec. 25, 2019; and Federal Philippines on May 24, 2016.

(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 versions changed the Education secretary's original statement.

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School year 2020-2021 is still slated to begin on Aug. 24.

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School year 2020-2021 will open on Aug. 24.

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