Fact check: De Lima is alive and still running for senator

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Fact check: De Lima is alive and still running for senator
This photo taken on February 8, 2022 shows Philippine Vice President and opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo (R) speaking as she endorses the senatorial candidacy of detained senator Leila de Lima next to a large cardboard cut out of de Lima (C), while de Lima's spokesperson Dino de Leon (L) looks on, during a campaign rally in the city of Naga, Camarines sur province, south of Manila. From behind bars, Philippine senator and human rights campaigner Leila de Lima is running for re-election in an against-the-odds campaign that gives her the chance to once again "go after" President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP / Charism Sayat

MANILA, Philippines (Updated: 1:20 p.m.) — A YouTube video is claiming without basis that opposition Sen. Leila De Lima, who is seeking re-election in the May polls, has passed away.

CLAIM: YouTube channel Banat Trending News posted a video with the title: JUST IN! SAWAKAS PDUTERTE! SEN. DELIMA CONFIRMED! PUMANA4AW NA?

RATING: This is false.


What the post claims

The video started with an unnamed narrator claiming that posts of De Lima passing away is "viral and trending" on social media, although it did not attach specific posts on it.

The narrator instead said videos of De Lima, which are part of campaign ads, showed that she has lost weight and may be sick.

This prompted social users to supposedly say they are saddened of news of De Lima’s passing is true but thought she deserved it her “karma” for her what “bad things” she did in the country, although no incident was cited.

Philstar.com screengrab, March 16 9:17 a.m.


What it left out

De Lima's chief of staff and deputy campaign manager Fhillip Sawali branded this as fake news. "The senator is alive and well. In fact, she was just interviewed by three media outlets yesterday (Tuesday) at the PNP Custodial Center, Camp Crame," he told Philstar.com.

De Lima has regularly been sending hand-written dispatches from her detention cell in Camp Crame. She sent out a dispatch on March 15 on the red-tagging of supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo.

Her team also continues to campaign for her in campaign caravans as part of the slate of Robredo and Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan.

Essential context

De Lima is a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. She has been in detention since February 2017 over three drug charges filed against her over her alleged hand in the proliferation of narcotics trade at the New Bilibid Prison during her sting as justice secretary.

De Lima asserted that these are politically motivated — an allegation the Palace has long denied. She has since been acquitted in one charge and has pending two conspiracy to commit drug trade before the Muntinlupa court.

In April 2021, De Lima was brought to the hospital for a three-day medical checkup, although test results showed no signs of stroke.

Curiously, the video focused on De Lima but halfway through, the narrator quoted a social media post that started with shock of De Lima’s passing and then went to say that good always trumps evil.

The social media user then thanked Duterte for “cleaning the government and developing the country” and they believe that presidential bet Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the only candidate who is smart brave and with love for country, like the incumbent president.

Why does it matter?

Just a day since the video was posted, it already earned 93,000 views on YouTube, with 1,700 likes. The video landed on Philstar.com’s monitoring of YouTube channels that have been flagged for sharing misinformation,

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez also earlier said the poll body is monitoring attempts at voter suppression, such as making the voter believe that one candidate has died, has backed out, has been disqualified or otherwise out of the running.

De Lima is not the first candidate to mount an election campaign from detention.

READ: Philippine politicians who have run for election behind bars



This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Philstar.com is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections. It is an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here.

Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected]

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