VERA FILES FACT CHECK: HOAXES spread on social media on Bong Revilla’s ‘death’

At least two Facebook (FB) users and two websites claimed that actor-turned-senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has passed away from COVID-19. This is not true.

On Aug. 27, Revilla spoke in a 14-minute Facebook Live video saying he was still in a “recovery period” from the disease. The lawmaker announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 9.

The hoaxes, which have three versions, surfaced a day after Revilla was rushed to a hospital on Aug. 18 after developing pneumonia. He was discharged last Aug. 24.

The earliest retrievable versions of the spurious claim were Aug. 19 FB posts by two different netizens on public bartering groups: Davao Buy, Sell And Barter and Bentahan ng Murang Motor at Kotse sa Pinas!.

Carrying nearly identical captions, the netizens claimed Revilla died that day, and invited readers to watch a video taken “before (Revilla’s) death” on their profile. No such clip can be found in their accounts.

The false FB posts also carried the exact same photos, which spliced together the following:

On Aug. 20, website LatestNewsSouthAfrica (latestnewssouthafrica.com) published an article titled, “Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr has passed away.” It featured a UNTV file photo of Revilla and a text story that plagiarized two articles: an Aug. 10 report by website Aug. 10 report by website Coconuts Manila on the senator testing positive for COVID-19, and an Aug. 18 Aug. 18 Business Mirror news story news story on Revilla being rushed to the hospital.

LatestNewsSouthAfrica, a website created only last March 20, added two fabricated paragraphs early in the article, including a quote supposedly from Revilla's wife, Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado, announcing his death.

A third version of the death hoax is an undated report by 16-day-old website jeepnytv.xyz titled, “BREAKING NEWS:Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr Pumanaw na!Matapos Hindi Malampasan ang Sakit na C0VlD (Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr has passed away after losing to COVID-19).”

Its content is an embedded video that has dubiously changed at least three times. As of publishing, the featured clip is a 12-second cut of 24 Oras’ report on the death of Revilla’s father, former senator Ramon Revilla Sr., on June 26.

Previously, the clip was a short footage of PTV News’ report of the older Revilla’s death, and a portion of an Aug. 10 video of YouTube channel Showbiz CareerPH. The latter actually disproves the rumor of the younger Revilla’s demise, but bears the misleading title, “SENATOR BONG REVILLA PUMANAW NA? (Senator Bong Revilla has died?).”

Jeepnytv.xyz’s report also shares similarities with other death hoaxes: the embedded clip that stops playing after a few seconds, an instruction for viewers to share the report’s link on FB before they can continue watching the whole video, and the lack of Home, About Us, and Contact Us pages on the website.

Social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle showed that Jeepnytv.xyz’s video could have reached over 2.6 million social media users, with groups RAFFY TULFO IN ACTION ADMINS GROUP S MEMBER, Tutok And Win, and BASILAN! BASILAN! as its top traffic generators.

Latest News South Africa’s article, on the other hand, already got over 1,800 FB interactions and could have reached 26,000 netizens, with traffic coming largely from public groups We Stand With CJ Sereno, Ping Lacson 2022, and CAVITE Buy and Sell.

Meanwhile, the two FB posts also carrying Revilla’s death hoax already received a combined total of 245 reactions, 128 comments, and over 300 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.)

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