Satire has long been used to humor, criticize and mock political figures. In the Philippines, satirical posts that mimic news reports or news organizations are prevalent. This type of content grew in 2022 and has increasingly misled netizens.
This 2022, VERA Files Fact Check, under its third-party fact-checking partnership with Meta, debunked a total of 388 posts. Twenty-three were satire – a significant increase from just nine satirical posts flagged in 2021. (Read VERA FILES YEARENDER: ‘No joke’: Satire increasingly used to spread disinformation in 2021)
Meta defines satire as “content that uses irony, exaggeration, or absurdity for criticism or awareness, particularly in the context of political, religious, or social issues, but that a reasonable user would not immediately understand to be satirical.”
Citing a historical anecdote, disinformation researcher Jonathan Ong said satire is a powerful genre of communication that criticizes the powers that be.
“Even Jose Rizal was a master of this genre in how he used fictionalized and exaggerated depictions to call out political and religious authorities abusing power in colonial Philippines,” Ong, an associate professor of global digital media at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, told VERA Files Fact Check via email.
Most of the satirical posts debunked targeted government officials and allies of the current administration, with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as the most satirized personality.
Ong added that the use of satire can also be driven by other ulterior motives outside of criticism.
“Satire is a way of delivering coded attacks against opponents with a crucial layer of deniability,” he said.
Our findings reveal that satirical posts use twisted or fabricated statements and events to mock its subjects. The “satire” label can either be conspicuous within the post or simply added as a hashtag on the caption. Without it, these posts are essentially fake, false, and misleading information.
The main sources of satirical posts were also pages that labeled themselves as satirical. Most of them imitate legitimate news organizations.
These posts can blur the line between truth and lies.
Political figures top subjects of satire
Almost all satirical posts debunked by VERA Files Fact Check had Filipino politicians as their topic. The rest were about a pastor, a celebrity, the late queen of England, a province, and anti-Marcos activists.
A third of the posts (8 out of 23) talked about Marcos, who was elected president this year. Six of these posts directly mocked him.
- Three were election-related, claiming that Marcos demanded a recount of typhoon donations the same way he asked for one during the 2016 elections; that he promised to lower the country’s unemployment rate to zero; and that he led a presidential preference survey with 99.9%.
- Two mocked his educational attainment. The posts claimed that the University of Oxford put up a signage announcing Marcos did not graduate there; and that he pleaded to be invited as keynote speaker in commencement ceremonies.
- Another spoof talked about Marcos getting emotional for being labeled a “party animal” in a “publicity stunt” interview.
A fabricated quote card presented as satire showed support for Marcos, claiming that the late Queen Elizabeth II congratulated him on his presidential win. This post later resurfaced on TikTok after the Queen passed away on Sept. 8.
A made-up news item about Marcos being the first man to step on the moon drew both criticism and support from netizens.
Five incumbent politicians also became the topic of satire: senators Raffy Tulfo, Alan Peter Cayetano and Jinggoy Estrada, Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos III, and Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.
Former vice president Leni Robredo, former Manila mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, the late Queen Elizabeth, and even the province of Cavite also became subjects of satire.
Others talked about known administration allies such as actress and TV host Toni Gonzaga and Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) founder Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
One satire also attacked anti-Marcos activists and their supposed absence during the 50th anniversary of Martial Law declaration last September.
Fabricated or twisted events and statements
The satirical posts featured statements and events that were either twisted or completely fabricated to instigate criticism against their subjects. Politicians and personalities also became the subject of exaggerated and non-existent events. These methods of ridicule were based on issues or events that the subjects were associated with, particularly in politics.
Eleven out of 23 satirical statements were about non-existent events presented as news. For example, it is not true that Moreno was appointed as Marcos’ new spokesperson. Nor was Gonzaga hospitalized for laryngitis after singing at Marcos’ presidential rallies.
In six satirical posts, non-existent statements were used to ridicule politicians and personalities. Contrary to a fake quote card’s claim, Robredo did not say she used transparent ink to write down her Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).
Statements made by public personalities were also twisted to convey a different meaning. When Estrada made a statement about banning Korean and foreign-made telenovelas, a satirical post made it look like the senator wanted to ban the National Basketball Association instead.
Two satires also exaggerated an event that actually happened. During the campaign season, an altered image that showed a sea of Robredo supporters during her campaign rally in Pasay City went viral.
These four classifications of attacks made against the subjects only prove that these posts can also become fake, false and misleading, beyond their “satirical” label.
Here is a list of satirical claims made against personalities.
From election events, political issues, statements to trending news
Satirical posts emerged online due to election-related events, controversial statements from politicians, scandals or issues against personalities, and trending news stories this 2022.
In six out of 23 posts, satirical claims appeared for more than one reason. They can piggy-back on either a trending news story, a controversial statement or both. Such was the satire about Moreno being appointed as Marcos’ spokesperson that emerged after the former accused Robredo of urging him to back out of the 2022 presidential race.
Ten satirical posts appeared after the May 9 election. On May 10, someone claimed that Robredo accidentally voted for her political rival Marcos Jr.
News headlines were linked to ten satirical posts published this year. The shooting of three people at the Ateneo de Manila University led to a quote card claiming that Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder Apollo Quiboloy called for the Ateneo gunman’s canonization.
Politicians’ controversial statements were also twisted and turned into six satirical posts. Sen. Tulfo’s quote about studying for his legislative position was turned into a joke where he allegedly said that he can fly a helicopter without prior training.
Four satirical posts revolved around issues against certain personalities. After the son of Justice Chief Remulla was arrested for alleged drug importation, a made-up news update claimed that Cavite is one of the top ten worst provinces to live in. Remulla was governor of Cavite from 2016 to 2019.
Here is a list of satirical claims and the reasons why they appeared.
Satirical pages source of most satirical posts
Social media pages that labeled themselves as satirical posted 14 out of 23 satirical materials debunked by VERA Files Fact Check.
Almost all of these satirical pages mimicked legitimate news organizations that more often, netizens cannot tell them apart. Here are some examples:
- Philippine Daily New Society (a parody of Philippine Daily Inquirer);
- Philippine Dairy Inquirer (a parody of Philippine Daily Inquirer);
- Cebu Dairy News (a parody of Cebu Daily News);
- Philippine Daily Sun (a parody of Philippine Star)
One of the satirical pages, Superficial Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, imitated the official journal of the Philippine government.
Philippine Daily New Society uses the graphical design and the dominant color scheme used by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It also uses the tagline “News you can’t trust,” a spoof of CNN Philippines’ tagline “News you can trust.”
The self-identified satire/parody page describes itself as “The Country’s Greatest Satire News – This page is for satire and entertainment purposes only!”
Cebu Dairy News mimics the name, brand color, and logo of Cebu-based digital news outlet Cebu Daily News. The logo uses the letters “CDN,” but it used the word “strical” (sic) below it instead of “digital.”
The page carries a disclaimer that they are “neither connected with CDN Digital nor with any of its affiliates.”
Other satirical pages flagged by VERA Files Fact Check also imitate the Philippine Star and News 5.
Satirical pages vs legitimate news orgs
The satirical pages flagged by VERA Files Fact Check have stated that they do not intend to mislead people and are not meant to be taken seriously. But many people still ended up sharing their content, thinking these were true.
“We are not purveyors of fake news. We have no intention to mislead the public. The burden to verify if an information is factual or correct lies on the readers,” Cebu Dairy News said in its About page.
Cebu Dairy News has also criticized people who attempt to have their page deleted for spreading “fake news.” It has even mocked supporters of Robredo for being “too intelligent” to debunk claims from a satirical page.
Another satirical page, Philippine Daily Sun, thanked VERA Files and Philstar’s Interaksyon for fact-checking their posts and promised to exert effort in making their content “less deceptive.”
“We try to be explicit about how our posts are only satirical but maybe our efforts were not enough, because a lot of Filipinos still take our posts seriously. And so, it is very helpful for us when legitimate news sites fact-check our posts,” part of its statement read.
Their page stopped posting content on July 12.
On the other hand, the news organizations which are being spoofed by these accounts have responded by posting warnings against satirical pages that imitate them.
“As a matter of policy, we do not allow much more condone the publication of satirical posts using our template to pass it off as a legit item from the site,” Inquirer.net Editor-in-Chief Abel Ulanday said in an email to VERA Files Fact Check.
He added that Inquirer.net posted an advisory on Oct. 13, 2021 disowning Cebu Dairy News that imitates Cebu Daily News under the umbrella of Inquirer.net.
“The site, which goes by the name Cebu Dairy News, is not in any way connected with INQUIRER.net or with Inquirer Group,” part of the advisory read.
“Please help us report this page. This page is not only using our templates but is also making fun of news items that are of serious value,” one of the advisories read.
Connie Kalagayan, Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Assistant Vice President for Corporate Affairs, expressed concern about satirical pages that spread mis- and disinformation using their brand.
“We have reported this to [Facebook] several times in the past but we believe the greater challenge for the media is how we can educate readers to be more discerning and to fact-check before sharing,” Kalagayan told VERA Files Fact Check via email.
What is Meta doing about satire?
Under a partnership with Meta, third-party fact-checkers like VERA Files are able to identify and rate satire on Facebook and Instagram.
Meta’s policies allow fact-checkers to rate satire when it does not have a clear label, or when it is shared by a source that doesn’t usually post satirical content.
Posts rated as satirical by fact-checkers will not receive a label defining it as satire. No restrictions on post visibility and sharing will be applied, its policy states.
Instead, Meta will append a fact-check article to the post, telling users why the content was rated as satirical.
The social media platform does not remove pages solely because of its satirical content.
The rise of satirical posts this year only proved that satire is both a way of voicing out criticisms against people in power and making fun of them, which could end up mis- and dis-informing people.
With every personality satirized, statements and events twisted and fabricated, and media organizations imitated, lies the challenge of helping people separate the truth from falsehoods.
After all, it’s not #satirelang (#satireonly).
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VERA Files, database of fact-check articles from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15, 2022
Meta, Ratings Options for Fact Checkers, Accessed Dec. 4, 2022
Jonathan Ong, email interview, Nov. 30, 2022
The British Royal Family, Announcement of the death of The Queen, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
Inquirer.net, Gunman in Ateneo shooting was a ‘determined assassin,’ says QC police chief, July 24, 2022
CNN Philippines, DOJ chief Remulla’s son facing illegal drug charges, Oct. 14, 2022
CNN Philippines, Tulfo to take up public administration course as he starts Senate career, May 19, 2022
Inquirer.net, INQUIRER.net disowns parody website, Oct. 13, 2021
Cebu Dairy News, About Cebu Dairy News, Accessed Dec. 1, 2022
Cebu Dairy News, We are just glad that Fact Check Philippines recognized us as a SATIRE PAGE, as well as Rappler…, Oct. 14, 2021
Cebu Dairy News, We are banning people from different sides of political spectrum…, Oct. 21, 2021
Philippine Daily Sun, The Philippine Daily Sun would like to thank VERA Files and Philstar’s InterAksyon…, June 26, 2022
Abel Ulanday, email interview, Nov. 28, 2022
Cebu Daily News, We urge the public to disregard or ignore this account…, July 30, 2021
Cebu Daily News, Tabangi mig report, Siloys!…, Aug. 2, 2021
Connie Kalagayan, email interview, Nov. 30, 2022
Meta, How fact-checking works, Accessed Dec. 12, 2022
Meta, Taking down violating content, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
Meta, Removing Pages and groups, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
Meta, Disabling accounts, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
Meta, Taking action, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
Satirical social media pages
- FB page Philippine Daily New Society, About page, Archived Dec. 1, 2022
- FB page, Philippine Dairy Inquirer, About page, Archived Dec. 1, 2022
- FB page, Cebu Dairy News, About page, Archived Dec. 1, 2022
- FB page, Philippine Daily Sun, About page, Archived Dec. 1, 2022
- FB page, Superficial Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, About page, Archived Dec. 5, 2022
- Twitter page, Cebu Dairy News, Archived Dec. 12, 2022
Official Facebook pages of news outlets and others
- Philippine Daily Inquirer, Official Facebook page, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
- Cebu Daily News, Official Facebook page, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
- Philippine Star, Official Facebook page, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
- Official Gazette, Official Facebook page, Accessed Dec. 2, 2022
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)