Filipinos misled by satirical posts about 'mass call for Sara Duterte to take over Philippine presidency'

·3 min read

An image has been shared hundreds of times in social media posts that claim it shows a genuine report from a Philippine broadcaster about a purportedly viral hashtag on Twitter calling for Vice President Sara Duterte to take over the presidency. In reality, the image was published by a Facebook page that regularly shares humorous posts about Philippine politics. As of September 14, the purported hashtag has garnered only over a hundred tweets.

The image was shared on Twitter on September 6.

It appears to show a screengrab of a tweet purportedly published by broadcaster SMNI News about a hashtag calling for Vice President Duterte to replace President Ferdinand Marcos Jr -- popularly known as BBM.

The screengrab reads: "LOOK: The hashtag #LetSaraLead has topped Philippine Twitter trends as of 11PM on Monday after former BBM supporters called for Pres. Bongbong Marcos Jr. to resign over 'broken promises'".

The hashtag "#LetSaraLead" was supposedly tweeted 31 million times.

But a keyword search of the hashtag found it was only used in over a hundred tweets as of September 14.

The screengrab also claims the hashtags "#BBMResign" and "Just go to parties" are also among the trending topics, a reference to criticism of Marcos for reportedly attending parties at high-end clubs.

While the screengrab shows the SMNI News logo, the username indicated reads "@smnimews".

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on September 12, 2022

The same image was also shared here, here and here on Facebook; and here, here and here on Twitter, receiving hundreds of retweets.

The Philippines holds separate elections for its president and vice president. Marcos and Duterte were running mates in the last election in May 2022 and were both elected to office with over 31 million and over 32 million votes respectively.

Both are seen as friendly towards SMNI owner Apollo Quiboloy, who reportedly has close ties with Sara Duterte's father, former president Rodrigo Duterte. The ex-leader also backed Marcos' and Sara Duterte's campaign in the election.

While some users recognised the image was satirical, others appeared to believe it showed a genuine tweet and reflected infighting among the allies. "Their supporters are now attacking each other!" one user wrote.

"Even SMNI couldn't resist tweeting about this," another commented.

However, the image was originally posted as satire.

Joke post

Keyword searches found the image corresponded to a Facebook post published on September 6 by the page "Amor Powers 2.0", which marks itself as satire. It regularly publishes satirical and humorous posts about Philippine politics.

Below is a comparison of the image in one of the posts (left) and the post published by the satire page (right):

Comparison of the false post (left) and the post published by the satire page (right)

In the comments section, the page clarified that the tweet was satirical and pointed out that the text "satire only" was placed at the lower right corner of the image.

"Open your eyes, there's a text that says SATIRE ONLY," the comment read. "The username is also @smnimews not @smninews."

Below is a close-up of the original post of the lower right corner of the image with the words "satire only" encircled by AFP.

A representative for the page told AFP the Twitter handle "@smnimews" was only made up and is "not the real Twitter handle of SMNI News."

A search on Twitter also found no account with the handle "@smnimews".

A representative for SMNI News separately told AFP the handle is not affiliated with the network.

"Our official Twitter handle is @smninews. @smnimews is not in any way connected with us," the representative told AFP on September 7.

SMNI News disowned the posts and called them "fake" in a Twitter post on the same day.