​VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video of ‘kidnapping’ scene at a mall NEEDS CONTEXT

A viral video on Facebook showing an alleged abduction of a woman in broad daylight misled netizens after it turned out to be a footage of an “anti-kidnapping drill” of a mall in Quezon City.

Facebook page Sinumpong, which describes itself as a “Saudi-based entertainment website,” posted Aug. 26 a video of a woman supposedly being abducted by three men on two getaway motorcycles. The footage, which has been viewed 1.4 million times, appears to have been taken from a mobile phone and was captioned:

“SM STA. MESA mag ingat po lalo sa mga kababaihan (be careful, especially the women). (C)…”

The footage is of the anti-kidnapping drill conducted on Aug. 20 by SM City Sta. Mesa’s Customer Relations Services Division with the Quezon City Police District.

A comparison of the screenshots of Sinumpong’s video with the photos in the mall’s Aug. 23 Facebook post indicates this.

The red circles on the right and left photos highlight the similarity of the colors and designs of the clothes of three men. The image on the left is one of the photos of SM City Sta. Mesa taken during its anti-kidnapping drill on Aug. 20. The photos on the right are screenshots from the video that Facebook page Sinumpong posted on Aug. 26.

In a Sept. 26 phone interview with VERA Files, SM City Sta. Mesa’s Marketing Officer Kevin Santiago also confirmed the footage recorded was a part of their simulation. Initially unaware that the video caused confusion among netizens, he apologized to the public on behalf of the mall:

“First, we would like to apologize (for) the incident that had happened last Aug. 20…The day after we were able to advise to (sic) our social media that this is only in relation to our anti-kidnapping drill.”

The viral video first made the rounds on other social media platforms and messenger applications before generating the most traffic on Facebook.

The earliest traceable copy of the video was posted Aug. 23 at 12:20 a.m. on Twitter. It was a screen recording of the video that “originally came” from a previously deactivated Twitter account. The account’s owner, in a comment, later apologized for posting the footage and explained she became “very alarmed” with what she saw.

On YouTube, a copy of the video was posted over two hours after the tweet, at 2:49 a.m. The caption noted the video was taken from atop “The Medical City,” in a building beside the mall. Santiago also confirmed the anti-kidnapping drill started in front of The Medical City, a clinic in the annex building of their mall.

An unverified Facebook page of Misamis Institute of Technology Inc., said the video it uploaded at 3:19 a.m. was “from the group chat of some students from PUP Sta. Mesa.”

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