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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: MISLEADING video claims Duterte joined US in “warning” China over WPS incursions

Duterte’s most recent comment on the country’s maritime controversy with China came on April 19 — seven days after the misleading FB video was published.

Apr 21, 2021

VERA Files

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Facebook (FB) page Filipinews Today spliced old video pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte to mislead that he had joined the United States in “denouncing and warning” China for deploying and positioning ships in Philippine waters.

The post tagged as “latest news today – April 10, 2021” was published on April 12. Only the U.S. had issued a warning against China at that time. Duterte’s most recent comment on the country’s maritime controversy with China came on April 19 — seven days after the misleading FB video was published.

The misleading 15-minute video of Filipinews Today used an April 9 report of Brigada News Philippines about the statement of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken read by Spokesperson Ned Price on April 8. The statement called for China “to abide by the 2016 arbitral tribunal award under the Law of the Sea Convention,” which nullified China’s nine-dash line claim and affirmed the Philippines’ rights over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In that statement Blinken also assured that the U.S. “stands with (its) ally” and warned that an attack against the Philippines “will trigger (Washington’s) obligations under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.” This was followed by two old pronouncements of Duterte on the WPS issue which were also complete flip-flops of each other.

The first one was from an August 2016 speech of the president where he “guaranteed” that if China enters the country’s territorial waters, “it will be bloody,” and that the Philippines “will not give it to them easily”.

Duterte’s second statement in Filipinews Today’s video, however, was a flip-flop from the first one. It was a 12 minute-long chunk of speech from July 2019, where he challenged the U.S. to “fire the first shot” against China, saying “[he’ll] be glad to do the next.” In the same speech, he said won’t be ordering his soldiers “to go to the mouths of hell to die [helplessly].”

Duterte’s latest pronouncement on April 19, meanwhile, came a month after the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) confirmed the sighting of “around 220 Chinese fishing vessels ” at the Julian Felipe Reef, which is just about 175 nautical miles from Palawan. They include ships believed to be manned by the Chinese militia, People’s Liberation Army Navy warships, and Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

In a late night address, Duterte admitted that the Philippines is “not in the possession of the sea” and that “there is no way [the country] can get back [the West] Philippine Sea without bloodshed.”

He also told the Chinese government that the Philippines wants to remain friends with China, but once the other country starts to mine and collect oil in the WPS, Duterte said that will be the time he will “send gray ships to stake a claim.”

The misleading video posted by Filipinews Today has already been viewed over 2.1 million times. It has so far more than 81,000 reactions, 7,000 comments, and 19,000 shares, with traffic largely coming from the page itself and public groups AFP MODERNIZATION LATEST UPDATES (KABAYAN TV) and “AFPNP Pensioner’s Group of the Philippines”. Filipininews Today page was created in June 2019, and claims to be a news and media website followed by 105,477 Facebook users.

The misleading video came just two days after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had a phone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. According to a U.S. Department of Defense press release, the two officials “reaffirmed” the alliance between their respective countries, with Austin proposing measures “to deepen defense cooperation”.

On April 13, the Foreign Affairs Department said it had summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian over China’s incursions into the Julian Felipe Reef.

(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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