VERA FILES YEARENDER: The most repeated false claims of 2017

One of the laws of propaganda goes, “A lie told often enough becomes true.”

Veering off from speeches every so often to rant about drugs, cops and human rights, President Rodrigo Duterte has routinely uttered and rehashed falsehoods as if these were true.

VERA Files counted the most repeated false claims it has fact-checked this year and came up with the top five. Four of them were by the president.

1. Only the poor use shabu

Duterte’s favorite false claim, uttered at least 22 times from July to December, was that shabu use is limited to the poor. Rich people, he said, smoke heroin or cocaine.


The latest Dangerous Drugs Board survey showed this claim has no statistical basis and that drug use cuts across all social classes.

2. Cannabis leads to a higher lung cancer risk

Duterte, reading a sheet of paper and attributing to a United Nations study, repeated this false claim at least eight times from October to November.


Duterte cherry-picked the findings of a UN study to support his claim even as the bulk of scientific evidence shows there is moderate evidence of no statistical association between cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk.

3. More and more cops and soldiers are killed daily in the drug war

Eight times from March to October, Duterte said the drug war is getting worse in terms of cops and soldiers killed, overstating his tally from “three to four” to “six to eight” daily.


Never did the president’s count match the official figures, #RealNumbersPH, which gives a much lower tally: three law enforcers killed every 20 days in antidrug operations.

4. The Philippines’ good human rights record at the United Nations

On at least seven occasions, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Communications Operations Office distorted facts about the Philippines’ human rights report card at the United Nations.

These include a news story that claimed 95 nations were convinced that there are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. The story was later taken down.


At the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, 44 out of 95 countries expressed concern over deaths in the war on drugs, outnumbering eight countries that gave qualified support.

5. Davao City’s ‘unprecedented’ 9 percent growth rate

In at least seven speeches, Duterte said the economy of Davao, his peace and order model, grew 9 percent when he was mayor—a feat the president said no other city or province has ever achieved.


Wrong. From 2010 to 2015, Central Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula posted growth rates higher than Davao’s 9.3 percent.

(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.)