Posts share misleading comparison of major Philippine river 'under different presidents'

Critics of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos shared a video collage alongside the misleading claim it showed an accurate comparison of the state of a major river in the country under his term and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte. The collage, viewed millions of times, appeared to show a much cleaner Pasig river when Duterte was in power. But an analysis of the clips found both were taken when Marcos was already president.

The misleading collage was shared on TikTok on March 29, 2024. It has since racked up more than six million views.

It included two clips of the Pasig river, a major waterway that runs through the Philippine capital Manila.

The first clip shows an aerial shot of a part of the river in the country's financial centre Makati. It was overlaid with text that read "Pasig River under Duterte" and an image of the former president.

The second clip shows the same portion of the river from a different angle with the camera zooming in on floating rubbish. It was superimposed with Marcos's image and text that said "Pasig River under Marcos Jr".

Screenshot of the false post taken on May 4, 2024

The Marcos and Duterte families earlier joined forces for the 2022 elections which swept the former to power in a landslide.

Marcos's vice presidential running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the former president, helped him win vital support from her family's home island of Mindanao.

But accusations of drug abuse, threats to split the country and rumours of a coup plot have destroyed the public facade of unity between the two families less than two years after the vote.

The video collage was also shared elsewhere on TikTok here and here.

Comments to the posts indicated social media users believed the video collage showed an accurate comparison.

"Please bring back Father Digong," one wrote, using the former president's nickname popularly used by his supporters.

"Father Digong's efforts were in vain. What's happening to the Philippines now?" said another.

An analysis of visual clues, however, found both clips were taken during Marcos's term as president.

Inaccurate comparison

A reverse image search of a frame in the clip labelled "under Marcos Jr" using Google Lens led to a higher quality clip uploaded on TikTok on March 29, 2024 (archived link).

Text overlaid to the video said: "Pasig River update!"

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clip in the collage (left) and the one from TikTok (right):

Screenshot comparison

At the start of the clearer TikTok clip, a pedestrian bridge could be seen near the bank of the river.

Google Maps street imagery of the location captured in various years show the bridge does not appear before March 2023 which shows the clip was indeed filmed under Marcos (archived link).

Marcos took office in June 2022 (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clearer TikTok video (left) and imagery from Google Maps (right) with the bridge highlighted:

Screenshot comparison

A further analysis of the other clip labelled "under Duterte" found it had been misrepresented and was also filmed when Marcos was already president.

At the clip's 12-second mark, an advert could be seen as the camera hovers above the river.

The image corresponds to an advertising campaign featuring two popular Filipino celebrities that was launched by Philippine telecommunications giant Smart on February 2, 2023 (archived link).

Duterte's presidency ended in June 2022.

The advert in the billboard can also be seen at the end of a video published by Smart on social media site X on March 7, 2023 (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison highlighting the corresponding adverts in the clip (left) and in the video from Smart (right):

Screenshot comparison

Google street imagery of the same portion of the river showed the same advert in March 2023 (archived link).

Earlier imagery captured in June 2022 -- the last month of Duterte's term -- did not show the advert (archived link).

AFP has previously debunked false and misleading comparisons of the state of the Pasig river here and here.

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