Students attend a class at a school in Taguig city, suburban Manila. ( AFP / TED ALJIBE)

Hoax 'scholarship' posts falsely promote cash handouts for schoolchildren in the Philippines

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts shared tens of thousands of times in the Philippines in August claim "all students" were eligible for cash handouts of 6,500 pesos ($116) through a government scholarship programme. The posts circulated online as the archipelago prepared to fully reopen all schools for the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The claim, however, is false. The message was shared on imposter accounts for the Philippine social welfare agency, which has not offered universal cash handouts to students. 

The fake announcement was shared on a Facebook page called "DSWD 4ps Update" on August 12.

DSWD is the acronym for the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The agency's logo can be seen in the post alongside a Tagalog-language caption that translates as; "GOOD NEWS/ Enlist for the SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM.

"All students will have a 6,500 pesos ($116) cash allowance, laptop, free cell phone and school supplies. Even mothers will receive 7,000 pesos ($125) monthly so register through the links."

The links initially lead to a website where users can apparently register for the handout, but eventually, they redirect them to e-commerce platforms.

The post -- shared more than 10,000 times before it was deleted -- circulated online as schools in the Philippines prepared to resume classes following the summer holidays. 

Screenshot of the false Facebook post taken on August 16, 2022

The archipelago is set to fully reopen all schools in November for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, AFP reported.

The false scholarship announcement was also shared more than 30,000 times on Facebook pages that bear the DSWD name and logo here, here and here.

The Facebook pages that shared the hoax announcement were all unverified.

Comments from some social media users indicated they believed the posts promoted a genuine government handout.

"I hope I am one of those lucky ones who can get support from DSWD for my seven children…five of them are in school. I hope you notice me, this is a big help to our family. Thank you," one wrote.

"Hi...I hope you can get me the scholarship. I was only able to finish the first semester because we have no money," said another. 

But the posts are false, according to the government's social welfare department.

Emergency assistance

In a statement posted on its official Facebook page on August 15, the department said: "The Department of Social Welfare and Development asks the public not to trust online posts that were not disseminated from the official social media accounts of the DSWD.

"The post states the agency grants educational assistance and scholarships... The agency clarifies it has no such has made no such offer to the public."

The agency said it only provides educational aid through a programme called "Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation".

"The individual applying for aid must be able to prove that they are suffering from crisis or extreme difficulties like a disaster, calamity or emergency," it said.

The DSWD has been frequently targeted by imposter pages spreading hoax posts, as debunked by AFP herehere and here.

The agency shares official announcements on its official Facebook page  -- which has a blue verified badge and more than one million followers.