People wade through a flooded street in Kawit, Cavite province on October 30, 2022, after Tropical Storm Nalgae hit the Philippines. ( AFP / JAM STA ROSA)

Filipinos share false posts from govt agency imposter about financial aid for Nalgae victims

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

The Philippine social welfare agency says it is not affiliated with a page that promised 5,000 pesos of financial aid to Filipinos affected by Severe Tropical Storm Nalgae, which pounded swathes of the archipelago in late October 2022. Posts from a page impersonating the agency about purported aid were shared hundreds of times online following the storm. While the Department of Social Welfare and Development is offering financial assistance to victims of Nalgae, a representative told AFP the amount varies depending on the agency's assessment.

The false claim was shared more than 200 times after being posted here on October 29 by a Facebook page called "DSWD Ayuda Update".

"DSWD" refers to the Philippines' Department of Social Welfare and Development while "Ayuda Update" translates to English as "Aid Update".

The Tagalog-language post claims victims of "Paeng" -- the local name for Nalgae -- could claim 5,000 pesos ($90) in financial aid through the popular mobile banking app GCash.

"TO THOSE AFFECTED BY STORM PAENG. JUST MESSAGE HERE," it says.

"WE DO NOT CALL OR TEXT. PROTECT YOUR GCASH ACCOUNT! DO NOT GIVE AWAY YOUR (PIN/OTP/CODE) TO AVOID GETTING HACKED!"

Screenshot of the false post taken November 16, 2022

Severe Tropical Storm Nalgae triggered flooding and landslides across the Philippines in late October -- killing more than 160 people.

Scientists have warned that deadly and destructive storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.

The Facebook page "DSWD Ayuda Update" also published similar posts here and here, which were shared more than 100 times.

Comments from some users suggest they believed this was a genuine update about aid from the government department.

"I hope I get chosen. I need the money to buy rice and diapers for my baby," wrote one user who included their GCash number in the comment.

"I really hope I'll be chosen. We were also flooded alongside our rice crops. Please, may God bless you and help us," another said.

But a director of the DSWD's social marketing service, Marlouie Sulima, told AFP the Facebook page "DSWD Ayuda Update" is an imposter account.

Imposter page

"The official Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Department carry the account name/handle @dswdserves," Sulima said.

"Moreover, the DSWD emphasizes that it has no affiliation with any other Facebook page/pages and that official information is transmitted only in the abovementioned official social media accounts, and in regional DSWD Facebook pages," he added.

Local media organisation Vera Files has also debunked the imposter page here.

The DSWD's official Facebook and Twitter accounts have verification badges that confirm their authenticity.

In contrast, the imposter page is not verified and claims to be a "video creator".

Financial aid

According to Sulima, those affected by Nalgae are eligible for financial aid, with the amount dependent on an agency assessment.

He told AFP: "The range of the amount of financial assistance provided to the families affected by Severe Tropical Storm 'Paeng' under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) is from Php2,000 ($35) to Php10,000 ($170) per family, depending on the assessment of social workers."

He added the complete guidelines for storm victims seeking financial aid could be found on the agency's website here.

AFP has previously debunked similar false claims about the DSWD offering housing and cash handouts here, here and here.