VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Priest did NOT say don’t attend mass if not pro-Robredo


A quote falsely attributed to a priest has spread on Facebook (FB) from netizens, a group, and a page. It shows him discouraging people from going to church if they will not vote for Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

This is false. Fr. James Wenceslao Gascon did not say or post the statement: “Don’t attend church if you’re not voting for Leni.”

The remark has been wrongly connected to the priest as early as December and recently revived on FB from Feb. 17 to Mar. 2. It was also shared on TikTok by a supporter of Robredo’s rival candidate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., on Feb. 26.

Gascon wrote in an email to VERA Files Fact Check that he made no such statement concerning the vice president.

He said his original FB post published on Oct. 4, 2021, was made in reaction to a friend organizing a party for a pro-administration senator. He added he couldn’t have mentioned Robredo, who filed her candidacy only on Oct. 7.

Below is the original text of the post, according to the clergyman:

“This coming elections, itataya ko ang pagka-pari ko. Kung di kayo buboto sa matinong kandidato, wag na kayong magsimba. Pa lector-lector pa sa simbahan, pa quote-quote pa ng bible. Tapos susuporta naman sa demonyo? Anong klase kayo.At handa na rin akong mawalan ng kaibigan kung ganyan din lang.”

(This coming election, I will put my priesthood at stake. Unless you vote for a sane candidate, don’t go to mass. You volunteer as lectors and quote the Bible, but you will support a demon? What kind are you? I’m ready to lose my friends if it is just like that.)

Gascon said he has since deactivated his FB account in time for Lent as a “form of fasting.” In February, Rappler debunked an earlier version of the claim and provided links to Gascon’s now-unavailable FB posts.

The priest pointed out his FB post was later altered and spliced with an image of him and Robredo, taken in 2017 (copies here and here), to insinuate that his post was about the vice president. “So I was NOT only misquoted but atrociously faked,” he added.

“[L]ast month, I posted a rejoinder, an apology, that the words I used may have been harsh, but I stand by my point: faith is lived and not just parroted,” Gascon said.

The false posts surfaced after several organizations, composed of hundreds of religious leaders, formally endorsed Robredo and her running mate Francis Pangilinan on Feb. 15. A Catholic lay council also backed the tandem, dubbed an “unprecedented” move by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

The false statement was published by FB pages Bangon Bayan Muli, Retired Babaero, Voice of Nortehanon and five netizens. Their posts have collectively garnered more than 23,840 reactions, 300 comments, and 31,250 shares.

The TikTok video has been viewed more than 1.9 million times and garnered more than 245,180 interactions.

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