VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Hontiveros DID NOT defend viral weed-smoking men

A story published Aug. 31 by website quoting Sen. Risa Hontiveros as saying that the seven young men in a viral pot session video "did no wrong" is fabricated.

The story bore the headline "BOOM! RISA PUMANIG SA PITONG BINATA NA NAGVIRAL WALA DAW MALI SA KANILANG GINAWA! PANOORIN (Boom! Risa sided with seven young men who went viral, said they did nothing wrong! Watch)." It carried as its content a video whose thumbnail showed a photo of Hontiveros, the seven men, and the quote, "They did nothing wrong because they were just having fun," in Filipino.

No reputable news organization reported on the senator's claim, nor quoted her defending the young men.

The story's content, an 18-minute clip from a 25-minute Facebook Live video that day of a netizen named Nino Ruelo Barzaga, also barely touched on the subject.

In his monologue, Barzaga focused more on questioning Hontiveros about the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) employee bonuses she "stole." A fact check by VERA Files last month already revealed that the million- and billion-peso bonuses were released - some, approved - before Hontiveros sat as a member of the Philhealth board.'s fake news was published two days after the seven men in the viral video surrendered to the police. Their video, supposedly filmed in 2016, showed them smoking marijuana while cursing at President Rodrigo Duterte.

Social media traffic to the story largely came from the pages Marcos Loyalist, BongBong Marcos Loylists Movement_Official Group and BongBong Marcos United, and could have reached over 1.85 million people. was created July 21; Youtube channel Tatay Duterte News, which uploaded Barzaga's clip, was created in December 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.)

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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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