VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Post on Aquino and the Universal Health Care law MISLEADS

An online post misleads readers by claiming former President Benigno Aquino III did not “sign” the bill on Universal Health Care during his term.

On Feb. 21, a day after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Universal Health Care bill, Facebook page Bayang Pilipinas published an image of Aquino with Sen. Risa Hontiveros placed side-by-side with Duterte’s.

Text was added to the photos, implying the two presidents supposedly dealt with the same proposed bill differently. It was further captioned:

“Pirma nalang ni Aquino ang kulang dyan noon pero dedma sya. Ngayon pirmado na ni diktador Digong (Aquino’s signature was the only thing lacking here but he brushed it aside. Now, it is already signed by Dictator Digong).”

The comparison is wrong and misleading.

In 2009, during the 14th Congress, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was president when bills to establish a Universal Health Care model in the country were filed in the Senate. No counterpart bill was introduced in the House of Representatives during this period.

At least five Senate bills were left pending at the committee level when the 14th Congress adjourned in May 2010. Unfinished businesses in Congress are deemed terminated once it adjourns. Bills need to be re-filed when a new Congress convenes after elections.

Aquino signed Republic Act 10606 in 2013, amending the National Health Insurance Act of 1995. Bills related to Universal Health Care were again filed during the 16th Congress (2013-2016) but were tabled and left pending at the committee level in both the House and Senate.

The newly enacted Universal Health Care Law repeals several provisions of the law Aquino signed. It now states that all Filipino citizens will be automatically enrolled to Philippine Insurance Health Corporation (PhilHealth), and that PhilHealth identification cards will not be required to avail of any health service.

Bayang Pilipinas’ misleading post could have reached over 1.6 million Facebook users, with traffic to the story largely coming from the page itself, President Rody Duterte Supporters International, and Solid Sarah Z Duterte 2022, among others. The Facebook page was created on February 28, 2017.

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