VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Panelo DID NOT say Hidilyn Diaz is ‘on a drug list’

(UPDATE: The Facebook page Martial Law Chronicles Project issued an erratum on Aug. 5 acknowledging that their post carried false information. The page has since taken down its post.)

A graphic circulating on Facebook (FB) comparing two statements by the president’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo — one as he congratulated Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, and another where he supposedly tagged her in a “drug list” — is fake.

A cursory search revealed no official records nor news reports of Panelo making a statement linking her to illegal drugs. He has also denied making the allegation.

“I never said that Ms. Diaz is not entitled to drugs just because she is a sports medalist. Neither did I aver that she was part of a drug list,” he said in a statement issued through his office’s FB page on July 27, where he also called the post “fake.”

The fabricated graphic was published by FB page Martial Law Chronicles Project on Tuesday, a day after Diaz made history as the first Filipino athlete to win gold at the Olympics. It featured two images of Panelo side-by-side — one superimposed with the text “Noon (Then)” and the other “Ngayon (Now).”

It bore the following statements:

  • Under Noon: “Just because you are a silver medalist, entitled ka sa drugs, bawal po yan Ms. Hidilyn. Our intelligence report is very credible, kasama ka sa drug list.”
  • Under Ngayon: “CONGRATULATIONS Ma’am Hidilyn for the gold. We always know that you will bring honor to our country that’s why the Duterte administration always extend (sic) its support to you!”

Panelo did congratulate Diaz for the Olympic achievement, but he did not mention the Duterte administration’s “support.”

He said in a statement published by media: “Her feat makes us Filipinos proud. Her getting the gold is a testament to the Filipino race’s talent and indefatigable spirit. It serves as an inspiration to all Filipino athletes that getting gold in the Olympics is no longer a dream but a reality. Congratulations Hidilyn Diaz !!!”

A silver medalist in the 2016 Olympics, the weightlifter was tagged in an “Oust-Duterte” matrix which Panelo bared in 2019, implicating her in a plot to destabilize the government. Several journalists and opposition groups were also included in the list. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: How Panelo justifies turnarounds on ‘oust Duterte Matrix’ source)

Panelo later on took back what he said about Diaz’s involvement in the alleged plot, and blamed the media for their “faulty analysis” of the matrix.

The untrue post has received over 1,500 reactions and 800 shares. The FB page was created on Feb. 1, 2016.

UPDATE: On Aug. 5, the Martial Law Chronicles Project published a public apology on their Facebook page for publishing the quote card that carried false information.

It wrote: “We thank Vera Files for shedding light on our error. We also apologize to all the followers of our Facebook page and to our partner organizations, with whom we are joined in upholding the truth.

We have made amends by taking down the post, reaching out to Vera Files, and making this apology and erratum.”

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)