VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Misuse of PHL flag NOT MADE during SEA Games

Two photos of the Philippine flag being illegally used as a tablecloth are currently making the rounds on the Internet. A lot of netizens assumed it was done as part of the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. This is not true.

On Nov. 25, a netizen uploaded on Facebook (FB) two photos showing the Philippine flag being used as a tablecloth for catered food. It came with the caption:

“Look at how Filipinos desecrated the national symbol --- our flag. Nobody
even bothers to undo this irreverence.
Something is wrong with the Filipinos.
Where is the love of country among us?
We need to fix our attitude as Filipinos.
Shame on us, Filipinos. Shame on us!”

There was no mention of the SEA Games in the post.

Under Section 34 of Republic Act No. 8491, the use of the Philippine flag “as a drapery, festoon, tablecloth,” among others, is punishable by law.

The photos were then shared by former broadcast journalist Ricky Velasco on his private Twitter account. In a screenshot of his tweet, he reuploaded the two images, cited the original uploader as his source, and wrote:

“@RADYOPATROL39: But wait there’s more…this to all the blunders in the SEAGames 2019. Meals are served to participating athletes. But using our FLAG as a table cover mantle? Notice that, the flag even touches the floor.”

Source: Ricky G. Velasco Twitter account, “@RADYOPATROL39: But wait there’s more…,” Nov. 26, 2019

A lot of social media users also shared the two photos assuming that the misuse of the national flag was committed during the Philippines’ hosting of SEA Games. In just two days, the original FB post got around 6,800 shares and 3,500 reactions.

However, in a comment on his own post, the netizen who uploaded the photos called out Velasco for connecting the images to the SEA Games, saying the journalist did so “to spin fake news.”

ABS-CBN, Velasco’s former employer, had also released a statement following the incident, clarifying that Velasco already retired from the network in 2015.

Abante News Online also published an article on the two photos on Nov. 26, bearing the headline “Philippine flag ginamit na mantel sa SEAG? (Philippine flag used as tablecloth for SEAG?).” The article was taken down on the same day but social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle shows that it got over 41,800 interactions on Facebook before it was deleted.

Abante later on published a report on how the two photos were taken out of context, including a statement from the original uploader saying that the images were taken in 2015 and were “from his friend residing in America.” It made no mention of the earlier deleted article.

VERA Files has reached out to the said netizen to confirm this statement but has yet to receive a response.

Two legitimate news sites similarly published reports about the on-going SEA games that were eventually found to be misleading.

In a Nov. 26 FB post, the Biñan City Information Office called out Inquirer.net for using a photo of the unfinished University of the Philippines Diliman football field in a Nov. 24 article, which the latter incorrectly labelled as the Biñan Football Stadium. The online news site had already updated its story to include an erratum.

Meanwhile, GMA reporter Dano Tingcungco posted a video on Twitter that showed the inside of a female restroom with a urinal at the Biñan Football Stadium. It bore the caption: “WATCH: No conjugal cubicles in female restroom at Biñan Stadium, but there’s a urinal #SEAGames2019.” This was also posted on GMA News’ FB page.

Tingcungco has already clarified the context of his report through a tweet thread. He said the urinal was there because the restroom was originally for men, but was renovated into a female restroom for the SEA Games. He added that the organizers opted to “repurpose” the said urinal for kids instead of removing it.

Tingcungco’s tweet and GMA News’ FB post have both been taken down less than a day after they were published.


Sources

The Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 8491, Feb. 12, 1998

Ricky G. Velasco, Official Twitter Account, n.d.

ABS-CBN News, ABS-CBN NEWS official statement, Nov. 27, 2019

Abante TNT, Philippine flag ginamit na mantel sa SEAG?, Nov. 26, 2019

Abante TNT, PH flag na ginawang mantel, matagal nang kinuha, Nov. 27, 2019

Biñan City Information Office Official Facebook Page, “With active support and keen preparation for the 30th SEA GAMES,” Nov. 26, 2019

Inquirer.net, Thailand claims not enough Thai food, drinks for players at hotel, Nov. 24, 2019

Dano Tingcungco Official Twitter Account, Female restroom with a urinal, Nov. 26, 2019

GMA News Official Facebook Page, “WATCH: No conjugal cubicles in female restroom,” Nov. 26 , 2019

Dano Tingcungco Official Twitter Account, “A thread: ⅓ Part of my coverage yesterday,” Nov. 27, 2019


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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