VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Kabataan Rep. Elago's mugshot is FAKE

A fabricated photo showing Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago charged with rebellion has been widely shared by a military-named Facebook (FB) page and public groups professing support for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.

The fake image, which also labelled the lawmaker as an "NPA (New People's Army) recruiter," was composed of a May 3 photo tweeted by Elago herself in celebration of World Press Freedom Day superimposed on a viral mugshot of a person who violated community quarantine protocols in April. The fabricated photo was earlier shared by an FB page bearing the name of the Philippine Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion.

The doctored image, which made the rounds online as early as June 1, contained other erroneous information:

First, the supposed case number of Elago’s charge of rebellion (CC No. 07-3126) and the trial court handling it (Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150) were lifted from former Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ rebellion case dismissed in 2011.

The case was reopened in 2018 after the president revoked the amnesty granted to the former senator by Pres. Benigno Aquino III.

Former senator Antonio Trillanes' mugshot when he was arrested in September 2018, and the photoshopped mugshot of Elago.

Also, the text on the edited photo has Elago’s surname misspelled as “ELAGAO,” identified as 'FAMALE' instead of Female.

A keyword search has yielded no results of any official record or report from legitimate media organizations on the alleged arrest of Elago last May 5 -- the date declared in the fabricated image.

The photo was re-uploaded a few days after the House of Representatives passed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill, which opposition legislators, including Elago, had opposed. The bill is now with the Office of the President for signing into law amid mounting concerns it could be abused to curtail basic freedoms.

A netizen's June 8 post to public FB group PROTECT THE PRESIDENT DUTERTE received over 2,300 reactions, almost a thousand comments, and around 1,900 shares -- making the group the top traffic generator of the fake photo.

Other traffic generators of the post are groups Tulfo Brothers Worldwide and SARA DUTERTE-CARPIO FOR PRESIDENT MOVEMENT INTERNATIONAL. Social media tool CrowdTangle was able to trace at least 25 posts by pages and public groups carrying the viral photo.

(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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