FACT CHECK: No, this is not a photo of corruption-tagged Senate candidate Enrile on wheelchair

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 27 2019 04:56 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2019 05:46 PM

A photo montage which has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media contains an image that purports to show a candidate for the Philippine Senate, Juan Ponce Enrile, in a wheelchair, which the caption claims is a gimmick linked to an ongoing corruption case. 

The image has been doctored from a stock photo of an injured man in a wheelchair.

In this February 10, 2019 Facebook post, which has been shared more than 32,000 times, the doctored picture of Enrile is part of a 4-picture montage of images showing well-known Philippine politicians in wheelchairs.

The writing above the images, when translated to English, says: “This is the life of a politician in the Philippines. When it’s election time, they RUN. When they have a case, they become CRIPPLED”.

Below is a screenshot of the post:

Screenshot of Facebook post

The photograph in the bottom left corner shows Enrile apparently sitting in a wheelchair with his arm in a sling.

Enrile, who is 95, has been charged with plunder but a 2015 Supreme Court ruling allowed him to post bail on health grounds. 

Enrile, a former Senate president, is seeking a return to the chamber in the May midterm elections. 

A reverse image search traced the image of Enrile, who has previously expressed support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, back to a royalty-free stock image posted on the website of Shutterstock, an American stock photography provider.

Below is a screenshot of the photo on the Shutterstock website: 

Screenshot of Facebook post

The caption of the image says: “Photo of a mature male with various injuries in a wheelchair, he’s wearing a neck brace, arm sling and leg cast and has a black eye, isolated on a white background.”

Key details in the doctored photo and the original image are the same -- for example, the man is wearing blue checkered pants, a neck brace and has one leg in a white cast.

An additional reverse image search traced the photo of Enrile’s face, which was added on top of the original stock image of a man in a wheelchair, back to this photo tweeted by local news organization ABS-CBN in 2018.

Comments such as the one below indicate that some Facebook users believed that Enrile was actually in the doctored photo:

Screenshot of comment

This comment, when translated to English, says: “That’s Enrile, the one with the cast on his foot and arm. When he got out, he suddenly became strong. The one who started the gimmick of being sick and weak/old supposedly is none other than the Patroness of Plunderers, Imelda.”

The other three images in the misleading photo montage show three well-known Philippine politicians, all of whom have faced corruption charges, in wheelchairs.

The image in the top left shows former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was charged with plunder but acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2016.

The photo was taken in 2011 at the Manila airport, when Arroyo, who was then facing election fraud charges, was trying to fly to Hong Kong for medical treatment but was blocked from leaving the country by the Department of Justice, which issued a hold departure order against her.

Below is a screenshot of the photograph which was used in media reports in 2011:

Screenshot of image

Arroyo is currently the House Speaker and can be seen in this Feb. 21, 2019 post on the official House of Representatives website at a ribbon cutting event, where she is not using a wheelchair.

The top right image in the misleading Facebook post is a 2004 AFP photograph of former president Joseph Estrada, who was convicted of plunder in September 2007 but pardoned by then-president Arroyo less than a month later.

The photograph’s caption says: “Deposed former Philippines president Joseph Estrada waves to the press upon his arrival at the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital for his knee surgery, 27th December 2004. Estrada, who is being tried on corruption charges, forcefully denied speculation that he intended to flee to a third country after being treated for arthritis in his legs in Hong Kong hospital.”

Below is a screenshot of the AFP photograph:

Screenshot of image

Estrada is currently Manila mayor.

The bottom right is a 2017 AFP photograph of Imelda Marcos, the wife of deceased Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. She was convicted in 2018 of graft for funneling $200 million through Swiss foundations in the 1970s, but has said she would appeal the decision.

The caption of the image says: “Former Philippine first lady and now congresswoman Imelda Marcos is assisted to her car after visiting the tomb of former Philippine president and late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on National Heroes' Day at the Heroes Cemetery in Manila on August 28, 2017.”

Below is a screenshot of the AFP image:

Screenshot of image

Imelda Marcos is now congresswoman for the second district of the northern province of Ilocos Norte.

The misleading photo montage was also posted on the Facebook account of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Quezon City (New Patriotic Alliance), a left-leaning political party.

The photo has been shared by different Facebook groups and pages, most of whom oppose President Rodrigo Duterte, and have nearly 650,000 followers between them.

Screenshot of Crowdtangle data