VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque wrongly claims lower PH COVID-19 rankings

Read this fact check in Filipino.

Bragging about the Philippines’ coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic response, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque erroneously cited the country’s global rankings of active COVID-19 cases and cases per million population.

STATEMENT

Even as the total tally of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines reached 607,048 on March 11, Roque said in a press briefing the next day:

“Well, sinasabi ko nga po paulit-ulit, that we have managed the crisis very well. We have limited the total number of cases to the point na number 30 lang po tayo in terms of total cases; in terms of active cases ... we are number 40 plus po and, in cases of iyong COVID cases per 1 million, nasa 133rd spot po, kung hindi ako nagkakamali, and the most important, of course, is we have limited iyong ating deaths ‘no to 2.09[%] of all those na nagkakasakit.”

(Well, as I’ve said repeatedly, that we have managed the crisis very well. We have limited the total number of cases to the point that we are number (ranked) 30 in terms of total cases; in terms of active cases ... we are number (ranked) 40 plus, and COVID[-19] cases per 1 million, we are in the 133rd spot, if I’m not mistaken, and most important, of course, is we have limited the number of deaths, right, to 2.09[%] of all those who got sick.)

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, WATCH: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque | March 12, 2021, watch from 27:30 to 28:05
FACT

Roque was wrong in two of his four claims.

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The Philippines ranked 28th (as of March 11, 2021) and 26th (as of March 12, 2021), not 40th, among countries with the most active COVID-19 cases, based on Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) COVID-19 global dashboard.

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The Palace spokesman also wrongly said the Philippines was 133rd in the global ranking of cases per million (population).

The Philippines ranked 110th (as of March 11, 2021) and 109th (as of March 12, 2021) among countries with total COVID-19 cases per million population, based on Our World In Data’s COVID-19 dashboard, a database maintained through the collaborative effort of researchers at the University of Oxford in England and non-profit organization Global Change Data Lab.

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However, the country is indeed 30th among 194 member-states of the World Health Organization (WHO) with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, based on WHO’s COVID-19 tracker for the same dates.

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Roque made the inaccurate claims in response to a question on the status of the national government’s pandemic response since President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon island under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on March 16, 2020. (See: VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Understanding ‘community quarantine’ and ‘social distancing’ policies)

A year after the Luzon-wide ECQ, Metro Manila hospitals are overwhelmed amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in the region.

As the number of confirmed cases in the country reached 631,320 on March 16, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 suspended temporarily the entry of foreign nationals and returning overseas Filipinos who are not Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from March 20 to April 19.


Sources

Department of Health Official Facebook Page, Ngayon 4 PM, Marso 11, 2021…, March 11, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, WATCH: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque | March 12, 2021, March 12, 2021

Johns Hopkins University, Center for Systems Science and Engineering: COVID-19 Daily Reports (March 11, 2021), March 11, 2021

Johns Hopkins University, Center for Systems Science and Engineering: COVID-19 Daily Reports (March 12, 2021), March 12, 2021

The Lancet, An interactive web-based dashboard to track COVID-19 in real time, Feb. 19, 2020

Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering, Accessed March 16, 2021

Our World In Data, Daily vs. Total Confirmed COVID-19 cases per million (March 11, 2021), Accessed March 17, 2021

Our World In Data, Daily vs. Total Confirmed COVID-19 cases per million (March 12, 2021), Accessed March 17, 2021

Our World In Data, Coronavirus pandemic: daily updated research and data, Accessed March 17, 2021

Our World In Data, How We’re Funded, Accessed March 18, 2021

Global Change Data Lab, Global Change Data Lab, Accessed March 18, 2021

World Health Organization, WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard, Accessed March 16, 2021

Archive.org, WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard (March 11, 2021), Accessed March 16, 2021

Archive.org, WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard (March 12, 2021), Accessed March 16, 2021

ABS-CBN News, Over half of ICU spaces occupied; decreasing healthcare capacity 'alarming,' says official, March 18, 2021

Inquirer.net, DOH: COVID bed occupancy in Metro now ‘alarming’, March 19, 2021

Rappler, Metro Manila's ICU bed capacity at 'alarming' 64.5% as COVID-19 cases soar, March 18, 2021

The Straits Times, Philippines confronts alarming new wave of Covid-19 infections with targeted curbs, March 15, 2021

Al Jazeera, Philippines battles COVID surge a year after protracted lockdown, March 16, 2021

Department of Health Official Facebook Page, Ngayong 4 PM, Marso 16, 2021…, March 16, 2021

COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Memorandum Circular No. 05, March 16, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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