VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video naming senators ‘behind’ OFW PhilHealth premium hike MISLEADING

A YouTube video that claims to reveal the public officials “behind” the increase in overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) premium contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is misleading and inaccurate. It cherry-picks eight of 13 senators who authored the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, a measure ultimately signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The increase in premium payments of OFWs, from 2.75% of their salaries in 2019 to 3% this year, is mandated under Republic Act 11223 or the UHC law, said PhilHealth Spokesperson Shirley Domingo in a May 3 GMA News Online report.

The same day Domingo made the statement, YouTube channel Ards Network published a misleading four-minute video headlined, “MGA SENADOR SA LIKOD NG MANDATORY 3% PREMIUM PAYMENT NG MGA OFW!! (Senators behind the mandatory 3% premium payment of OFWs).” It told viewers to remember the following “for passing the UHC law”: senators Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, Leila De Lima, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sherwin Gatchalian, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Risa Hontiveros, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

Ards Network spuriously left out mentioning senators Ralph Recto, Cynthia Villar, Manny Pacquiao, Franklin Drilon, and former senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who were also authors of Senate Bill No. 1896, or the Senate’s version of the UHC Act, during the 17th Congress. This was signed into law by Duterte on Feb. 20, 2019.

When viewed on social media, the post likewise misleads as it only bears the headline and a thumbnail that shows photos of the senators Ards Network mentioned, sans Villanueva.

A day after Domingo’s statement and the video’s uploading on YouTube, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a May 4 presser that the increase in OFWs’ premiums is not stated in the law itself, but in its implementing rules and regulations.

The implementation of the raise has since been suspended and Roque said in the same presser that Duterte had ordered the payments to be made voluntary.

Ards Network’s inaccurate video features a lot of clips unrelated to the subject while a man out of frame speaks mostly in Filipino about his frustrations over the increase in health insurance payments. It has received over 66,000 views and more than 158,000 interactions on Facebook.

Social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle shows there are at least 61 public FB groups and pages that have shared the link to the misleading post.

The video’s top traffic generators are public FB groups Tulfo Brothers Worldwide, Filipino Tambayan, and Tatay Digong Supporters, which were created in June 2018, December 2015, and August 2017, respectively.

Ards Network joined Youtube in November 2015.

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