VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Site revives OLD, FAKE story on National University students ‘walking out’ on Risa Hontiveros

Blog Global Balita PH (globalbalitaph.blogspot.com) recycled an old, false report claiming students walked out during a “recent” speech by Sen. Risa Hontiveros at the National University (NU), after she supposedly endorsed an “anti-Marcos” book.

Published less than two weeks before the 34th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, which overthrew the regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, the fabricated Feb. 14 report surfaced on the Web with the grammatically incorrect headline, “Breaking! National University Students Walks Out From Sen. Hontiveros Speech.”

It claimed the protest happened after the opposition senator, supposedly invited as a “guest speaker on human rights” that “Thursday” (Feb. 13), endorsed journalist Raissa Robles’ book, “Marcos Martial Law: Never Again.”

It carried three photos: one of Hontiveros speaking at the supposed event; another of students walking out of a building, led by a man with a megaphone; and a third showing uniformed students with raised arms, and superimposed with the words “Bye bye Risa!”

The fake report is a replica of a years-old story debunked by NU itself in March 2018 via a statement on its official Facebook (FB) page.

NU wrote: “Sen. Hontiveros was not present and did not deliver any speech in National University last Thursday morning. Furthermore, pictures that were posted related to this article were taken more than 4 years ago and were not in any way connected to any protest on any issue.”

Neither the senator’s nor NU’s official FB pages show Hontiveros having any speaking engagement at NU on Feb. 13, or any other date recently.

More, the photos used in the story came from three unrelated events. The image of Hontiveros was grabbed from a June 2017 post on her FB page, in which she refuted claims that she supports the rebel Maute group.

The photo of students walking out of a building was not at all from NU and instead features students from Ateneo de Manila University during a September 2013 anti-pork barrel rally, uploaded on AdMU’s official website.

The last image indeed shows NU students. However, they were performing a flash mob dance and not a protest. Global Balita PH grabbed the image from a September 2012 video of the performance, uploaded on YouTube with the title, “MAGNITUDE 14.0 - NATIONAL UNIVERSITY - MANILA.” There was no text “Bye bye Risa!” on the image, contrary to the site’s claim.

A look at the site’s back end

An earlier version of the fake report, which was fact-checked by Agence France Presse in July 2019, appears to be connected to this revived copy. VERA Files Fact Check looked into the relationship of this older copy, published by website News Break Updates (newsbreakupdates.blogspot.com), with that of Global Balita PH.

The two dubious websites share the same MGID domain and ID, digital fingerprinting tool Trendolizer shows. MGID is an advertising platform that provides publishers with ways to generate profit via traffic coming to their respective websites. This connection suggests there may only be one person or institution behind the two sites.

Story and publisher history

It looks like the false claim started circulating before 2019. NU’s statement came out in 2018, which GMA News turned into a story. Rappler also published a fact check on the copy of the fabricated report that made the rounds that year.

The “source” cited in both Global Balita PH’s and News Break Updates’ reports -- website phnewspride -- also has a record of producing disinformation.

VERA Files Fact Check has flagged the site twice in 2018: first, for falsely claiming the head of urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) owns a P10.5 million house, and second, for publishing another false article against Hontiveros, claiming she is involved in a Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) corruption controversy.

Global Balita PH’s fake post could have reached over 1.7 million netizens. It has already received almost 9,000 public and private interactions on FB, with public FB groups Solid Duterte Supporters Worldwide, Solid Sarah Z Duterte 2022, and Raffy Tulfo In Action Supporters‎ being its top traffic generators.

Global Balita PH has been publishing reports since Jan. 12.

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

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