​VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Report MISLEADS with figures on nat’l debt during Aquino admin

Dubious website BALITANG CITIZEN PH rehashes a 2017 article of, a website previously flagged by VERA Files as a sharer of disinformation. The report falsely claims that the Aquino administration has an outstanding debt totalling P6.4 trillion.

The article, published Nov. 20, has no byline and bore the headline “Nadiskubre! Noynoy Aquino mayroong P6.4 Trillion in Outstanding Debt? Alamin niyo Po dito (Discovered! Noynoy Aquino has P6.4 trillion outstanding debt? Know more here).” Posted with it are photos of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and current President Rodrigo Duterte.

The report consisted of various figures which were included to suggest that the Aquino administration committed “alleged illicit spending,” thus the high national outstanding debt during his term of office. The claims are as follows:

  • P6.4 trillion outstanding debt of the Aquino administration
  • External debt of $77,658,912,000 by “early 2016”
  • Public debt of $163,934,972,678 by “early 2016”
  • $500 million loan from the World Bank for those affected by Typhoon Sendong in 2011
  • $500 million loan for rehabilitation after super typhoon Yolanda
  • P73.31 billion donation received by the government for the rehabilitation program for the victims of Yolanda

Of the six claims, only half are accurate.

The figure on the national external debt being $77.7 billion as of June 2016 came from a 2016 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas press release. It is also true that there were two $500 million worth of loans from the World Bank for the victims of Typhoon Sendong in 2011 and Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

However, the P6.4 trillion outstanding debt of the Aquino government stated in the misleading report’s headline is inaccurate; in June 2016, the last month of Aquino’s presidency, the country had P5.9 trillion outstanding debt, according to the Bureau of Treasury (BTr).

The annual national outstanding debt is an accumulation of the country’s debt throughout the years, including those of the administrations preceding Aquino’s.

Figures from the BTr, which are in pesos, also show that the national public debt from January to June 2016 was never less than P5.88 trillion and never exceeded P5.9 trillion. When converted to U.S. dollars using the foreign exchange rate declared in the BTr report, the amount ranges from

$125.1 to $125.5 billion only, and not $163.9 billion like what BALITANG CITIZEN PH claims.

Lastly, the P73.31 billion the article referred to as the amount of donations the country received for rehabilitation after the devastating super typhoon Yolanda is the total cash and non-cash foreign aid pledged by international groups and other countries for the Philippines. Out of this amount, only

P17.2 billion was received by the country: P2.4 billion was given directly to the government, while the remaining amount was received by non-government multilateral organizations.

These figures were not suddenly “discovered” as suggested by the misleading report, for these are data readily available online.

BALITANG CITIZEN PH’s article made the rounds on the web the week the controversy on the alleged P11 billion loan made by the government for the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games surfaced. It could have reached 2.6 million social media users. Its top traffic generators are public groups President Rody Duterte Facebook Army and SARA DUTERTE FOR PRESIDENT 2022 ELECTIONS.

Rappler has also flagged a similar misleading report last August.

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