FACT CHECK: No, this is not a photo of Pope Francis meeting Duterte

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 06 2019 05:31 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2019 05:52 PM

A photograph that has been shared thousands of times on social media claims to show Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meeting Pope Francis. 

The claim is false; a reverse image search found that the picture is a doctored version of a photo showing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2016.

The photo, which has been posted on Facebook and on Reddit, purports to show Pope Francis shaking Duterte’s hand.

Screenshot of Facebook post

The post, when translated to English, says: “This is not being shown by the media because the only thing they know is to criticize. In President Duterte's state visit to the Vatican Pope Francis talked to him and told him 'God will save you from your critics'.”

Duterte once called Francis “son of a whore,” but later sent the pope a letter expressing his “highest esteem and respect.”

Duterte made plans to visit the pope and personally apologize for the remark, but subsequently canceled them.

A reverse image search traced the photo in the misleading posts back to this news article that the Associated Press news agency published on August 29, 2016.

The article is about Pope Francis meeting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Screenshot of article

The altered image, which includes Duterte, has been posted on Facebook since September 2018.

The doctored photo and the original both contain these key details: a circular painting in the background, a dark-colored tie and a plant in a white pot on the image’s far right.

Comments such as the one below indicate that some Facebook users believed the doctored photo was real.

This one, when translated to English, says: “I'm really in awe of Pres. Duterte, it's like handling a plant, you go straight to the root and not to the branches. The president is right that instead of critics, you go straight to the POPE who will say the truth, with advice and blessings even.”

Screenshot of comment

The photo has been shared more than 12,000 times by Facebook groups which support Duterte’s allies since it was first posted in September 2018.

Screenshot of Crowdtangle data