VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Story on Sotto ‘disallowing’ granting of emergency powers for Duterte bears FALSE HEADLINE

Website Happy Tayo published March 22 a report with a headline falsely quoting Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III as saying "emergency powers" will not be given to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte under the proposed bill called Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The site, which has the tagline “The right Website for the right News,” posted the story with the misleading headline: “Sen. Sotto hindi papayagan ang gusto ng Pangulo na Emergency Powera (sic) ‘Hindi ka namin papayagang Kontrolin mo yan!’ (Sen. Sotto will not allow the President’s request for Emergency Powers ‘We will not allow you to control that!’).”

It purported to report Sotto making that statement in response to Malacanang’s call on Congress to pass a law giving Duterte additional powers to “temporarily take over or direct the operation” of privately-owned businesses or utilities to deliver public needs during the COVID-19 emergency.

Sotto, who authored the Senate version of the bill, never uttered the fabricated quote. No news reports reflect the senator making such a statement.

Happy Tayo appears to have twisted a statement Sotto made on March 22, which various news reports carried, when asked about the measure. What he said was: “Perhaps one controversial provision in the bill [is] about the takeover of businesses, but that won't fly in the Senate.”

The above quote was in the body of Happy Tayo's story, while the headline underscored the grant of 'emergency powers', which Sotto denied. The misleading report was published the same day Sotto made the above statement in a text message to reporters.

On March 24, Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11649 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which authorized him with powers to expedite the accreditation of testing kits for COVID-19 and to provide financial aid to around 18 million low income households for the next two months, and compensation for health workers who contracted COVID-19, among others.

The version that Duterte eventually signed did not include any provision allowing him to take over private businesses.

Happy Tayo’s report with a false headline surfaced amid public criticism of the controversial provision.

The misleading story could have reached over 3.5 million people, with traffic to the story largely coming from FB groups PROTECT THE PRESIDENT DUTERTE, PRESIDENT RODY DUTERTE -FEDERAL MOVEMENT INTERNATIONAL, SARA DUTERTE FOR PRESIDENT 2022 ELECTIONS.

Happy Tayo was created on March 1.

(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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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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