VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Story claiming Duterte’s drug war blessed by Pope Francis PARTLY FALSE

A recent story by website that claims President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drugs has been blessed by Pope Francis mixes fact with fallacy.

The undated story has been circulating on social media since Dec. 3 and bore the headline “Pope Francis: Paglaban sa (fighting against) drug lords at (and) drug traffickers, tungkulin ng bawat gobyerno (responsibility of each government)”. It was based on the pope’s Dec. 1 speech at an international conference called “Drugs and Addictions: An Obstacle to Integral Human Development” at the Vatican.

While the report’s first three paragraphs are factual, correctly quoting the pope’s sentiments about the need for governments to fight drugs, wrongly claimed that the pope “especially blessed the Duterte administration” in its fight against “traffickers of death.”

The pontiff’s universal message made no mention at all of Duterte and his war against drugs and neither did he call drug traffickers as “traffickers of death”. The pope said the Church has been working with various local, national and international groups to combat the spread of addictions, devoting resources to prevention, care, and rehabilitation.

The partly false story also used a misleading photo that spliced together a Malacanang Photo Bureau photo of Duterte with two thumbs up dating back to 2016 with one of stock image provider Alamy that shows the pope giving a thumbs up during his 2014 visit to South Korea.’s misleading story made rounds a day after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo welcomed the pope’s remarks and said the Palace considered it as a “boost” to their campaign against drugs.

The report could have reached over 286,000 people, with traffic from social media largely coming from the pages PhilNetizen, Pilipinas Press and Duterte Fact news. was created on Sept. 26.

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