VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral photos of buildings lighted pink MISLEADING

(UPDATED) Images of establishments illuminated in pink are being shared by thousands of netizens, believing they are expressions of support for Vice President Leni Robredo’s presidential run in 2022.

The photo sets, posted by two Facebook (FB) users, one FB page and a Twitter user, showed the pink-lighted façade of the following places:

  • University of Santo Tomas (UST) in España, Manila;
  • De La Salle University (DLSU) in Malate, Manila;
  • Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig;
  • Rustan’s Mall in Cebu City, Cebu; and
  • St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.

The use of the images to signify support for Robredo is misleading. The photos of UST and DLSU are over two years old. The mall and hospital have said that their displays were done in observance of breast cancer awareness month, while the hotel said its color-changing lights are part of a nightly show.

The posts, carrying four to five photos each, emerged on Oct. 7 and 8, around the time Robredo announced and filed her candidacy for president.

We provide context to each photo below.

UST

The circulating image is a digitally enhanced copy of a photo originally taken on Dec. 21, 2018 by Marvin John F. Uy of The Varsitarian, UST’s official student paper. The image shows the university’s plaza mayor (main square) during its annual Paskuhan event.

The original photo shows the building was mostly lighted in bright yellow, with pink and blue accent lights. Its edited version adjusted the colors to boost the pink hue.

DLSU

The photo of DLSU’s St. La Salle Hall came from a post on the university’s official FB page on Nov. 30, 2018.

In its caption, the university’s page said that in celebration of its 501-600 bracket placement in the 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) Engineering and Technology Subject Rankings, DLSU’s façade donned THE's colors — which are blue, purple and red.

A look at the two ends of the panoramic photo shows that the façade had also been lit blue and red. Its middle portion was lit in purple, not pink as claimed.

Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig

Despite the photo’s original source being unclear, a cursory image search confirms that the tall building with seven vertical pink lights is indeed the Marco Polo Hotel in Pasig.

Kristine Facto, the hotel’s communications director, told VERA Files Fact Check in an email that the sequence of colors displayed in their building’s façade is “part of the tower’s nightly light show.”

“It automatically changes after a few minutes, and the program has been in place since the building started operating,” Facto added.

Rustan’s Cebu

In a phone call, a manager of the mall who declined to be identified told VERA Files Fact Check that the pink lighting of their building commemorates breast cancer awareness month, and was unrelated to Robredo.

The mall’s official Facebook page has also posted several updates about the lighting event, which it says it performs every October since 2015. Here is a copy of the same event in 2020.

Netizens credited the photo of the pink-lighted mall building to an FB user who claimed that he got the image from a friend. The netizen asked, “What is this?!” and used the hashtag #LabanLeni2022.

St. Luke’s Medical Center, QC

Ma. Oliva Miguel, associate director of the hospital’s corporate communications office, said in an email that the photo of the hospital with pink lights was “taken years back in support/celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

On a related note, VERA Files Fact Check found a copy of the image circulating in private chats with a caption supposedly from the hospital’s management saying it was “nothing political.”

Miguel said the hospital has “not released any recent post mentioning nor explaining the photo of St. Luke's Medical Center - QC with pink lights” and that the circulating message “did not possibly originate from [the hospital’s] official account.”

The netizen’s posts garnered 11,000 interactions on FB and the tweets got 25,000 interactions, while FB page Coalition Against Darkness and Dictatorship - CADD’s post got 2,400 reactions, 400 comments, and 2,200 shares.

Among the traffic generators of the photo set that needs context include FB pages Patolang Pilipina and Family for Leni, as well as FB groups Leni Robredo Volunteers for Good Governance and Solid Pro "LENI." Collectively, these garnered more than 27,000 interactions, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

Coalition Against Darkness and Dictatorship - CADD was created in May 2017.


(Erratum: This story was updated on Oct. 20, 2021 to correct the name of Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas' communications director, Kristine Facto. We apologize for the mistake.)

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

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Send us a message here or here.

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