OPPOSITION Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Friday filed three counts of the cybercrime offense of libel and falsification of documents against Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson before the Office of the Ombudsman, and sought her immediate dismissal for taking advantage of her position to spread fake news.
Trillanes also accused Uson of graft, grave misconduct and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
“The era of fake news is over. All those spreading fake news will be culpable under the law,” Trillanes said.
“I’ve been holding my peace. I have always been badmouthed.... But this one is different. She has been spreading fake information, directly besmirching my reputation and credibility as a public official. She has accused me of having offshore accounts that really did not exist,” Trillanes said.
He advised Uson to hire a very good lawyer to defend herself.
The senator threatened to also sue radio commentator Erwin Tulfo and Ben Tesiorna, a contributor of CNN Philippines, who was allegedly behind a propaganda website.
The charges arose from Uson’s sharing on her Facebook page a post from the “Davao Breaking News 2” page purportedly showing documents from bank accounts that Trillanes owned.
“Trillanes’ hidden wealth. Let’s see if GMA News, ABS-CBN News, News 5, CNN Philippines, Rappler, and Inquirer.net will use it,” Uson commented in Filipino.
Uson, a sexy dancer before being assigned to the censors board and the Presidential Communications Operations Office, also shared images of and links to documents purportedly showing that Trillanes had numerous bank accounts in foreign banks.
In an interview after the filing, Trillanes said the standard of a responsible senior government official must be higher. He said that the truthfulness of a particular matter should be verified before being shared.
He also said Uson cannot separate her social media posts from her official functions because she was precisely assigned to head the social media efforts of the PCOO.
Immediately after Trillanes announced that he would file a libel case against Uson, she told the senator to look up the word “alleged,” noting that the details of the bank accounts she shared were the claim of Davao Breaking News. She also vowed to resign if Trillanes won his libel suit against her.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte had accused Trillanes’ of having bank accounts in Singapore, and even announced his bank account number.
This prompted Trillanes to fly to Singapore to visit the banks where he allegedly had accounts. When the senator gave the bank the account number Duterte had revealed, the bank manager told him no such account exists.
Duterte later admitted he made up the number to fool Trillanes, then offered the “actual” account number—which again turned out to be invalid.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Trillanes was within his rights to sue Uson, but said Malacañang is not in the business of spreading wrong information.
“I think it’s clear we don’t do stuff like that. We stand on the platform of integrity of communication. Do we sanction people spreading fake news? I don’t think so,” he said.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, meanwhile, said the Philippine News Agency employees involved in a series of blunders in the state-owned news service have resigned.
In an interview on radio dzMM, Andanar said those responsible for running a pro-Beijing editorial on the South China Sea dispute and running a photo from the Vietnam war to illustrate fighting in Marawi City have quit.
In May, PNA also erroneously reported that 95 member states of the United Nations said there were no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
Women and youth groups on Friday went to the Office of the Ombudsman to challenge the “fake” cases of kidnapping, obstruction of justice and wiretapping filed against Senator Risa Hontiveros, who has been critical of the Duterte administration and who had taken custody of witnesses the a police shooting that resulted in the death of 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian delos Santos.
Akbayan secretary-general Kit Melgar said the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II were persecuting Hontiveros for “defending justice for the victims of the Duterte killings.”
“This is political intimidation against Duterte’s enemies and against people who speak out for human rights and justice,” the group said.
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