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FACT CHECK:  Manipulated video cites Willie Ong ‘endorsement’ for hypertension ‘cure’


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FACT CHECK:  Manipulated video cites Willie Ong ‘endorsement’ for hypertension ‘cure’
The misleading video was altered to make it seem like Doc Willie Ong, journalist Vicky Morales, and actress Toni Gonzaga are endorsing a supposed cure for hypertension

Claim: Cardiologist and online health personality Dr. Willie Ong, also known as Doc Willie, endorses a cure for hypertension.

 Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: As of writing, the Facebook post has gained 84,000 views and 795 reactions.

The video starts with a clip from the GMA News show 24 Oras, showing broadcast journalist Vicky Morales seemingly reporting about an effective hypertension cure supposedly developed by Ong. This is followed by a clip of celebrity Toni Gonzaga interviewing Ong and talking about the supposed cure.

The bottom line: Ong does not endorse the supposed hypertension cure. The misleading video consists of manipulated clips featuring Ong, Morales, and Gonzaga. While their voices were effectively mimicked, the mouth movements appeared unnatural.

Sensity, a web-based tool for detecting AI, found the video “suspicious” with a 88.7% confidence level. 

Sensity noted that “high confidence” indicates the detector has identified clear signals of AI generation or manipulation, with a minimum confidence threshold set at 50%. Established in 2018, Sensity specializes in the detection of “deepfakes and various other forms of malicious visual media.”

The clip of Gonzaga and Ong was altered from the original video posted on Gonzaga’s YouTube channel in August 2022. The topic was not related to hypertension at all, but was about the beginnings of Ong’s YouTube channel.

Managing hypertension: According to the American Medical Association, there is no cure for high blood pressure or hypertension, but lifestyle changes and blood pressure-lowering medications can help control it.

AI disinformation: In a 2023 report, human rights advocacy group Freedom House said artificial intelligence has made it easier to spread disinformation online. “Purveyors of disinformation are employing AI-generated images, audio, and text, making the truth easier to distort and harder to discern,” the group said. 

False medical endorsements of Ong have been circulating over social media, with some using AI tools to manipulate videos and images. Ong has repeatedly debunked these fake ads, telling Rappler that the only product he and his wife Liza endorse is Birch Tree Advance, a nutritional milk for seniors. 

Rappler has fact-checked similar claims about Ong:

  Andrei Santos/Rappler.com

Andrei Santos is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to the #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.


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