Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Friday filed multiple criminal complaints against Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson for allegedly spearheading the spread of fake news over his supposed offshore bank accounts.
Trillanes charged Uson before the Office of the Ombudsman with three counts of libel under the Anti-Cybercrime Law and using falsified documents under the Revised Penal Code.
For performing at a casino in Pasay City, Uson was also accused of grave misconduct, and violation of the Code of Ethics and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees [Sec. 7(B)(2)], as well as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act [Section 3(e)].
"Yung kanyang continued practice ng kanyang profession. Yung pagperform, bawal yun. At manager siya ng mocha girls. Hind puwede yun. As a government official, isa lang dapat yung trabaho mo, isa lang dapat ang source of compensation unless specifically authorized by law," Trillanes said.
Trillanes said Uson should be dismissed and perpetually disqualified from public office.
"As a responsible senior government official, mas mataas ang standards natin, di ba? Dapat vine-verify yung truthfulness bago tayo mag-share," Trillanes said in an interview after filing the complaint.
"Well, dito nalang siya sa Ombudsman magpaliwanag. Apparently kailangan nya ng magagaling na abogado dahil mabibigat na kaso ang finile natin sa kanya," the lawmaker advised Uson.
Trillanes had earlier threatened to file libel charges against Uson, Erwin Tulfo, and Ben Tesiorna, the person he said was behind the Davao Breaking News Facebook page which published his bank accounts.
Uson has yet to issue a statement on the complaint against her, but Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella has already said Trillanes was free to lodge the complaint but insisted the Palace does not spread fake news.
End of fake news era
In a Facebook post, Mocha earlier told Trillanes to look up the word “alleged” indicating that the details of the bank accounts she shared was the claim of the Davao Breaking News.
Trillanes said he attached to his complaint copies of Uson's social media posts on the matter.
He said he wanted his complaint to serve as a lesson for Uson and end the "era of fake news" in the country.
"Let this be a lesson not only for Ms. Mocha Uson but yung sa mga ordinaryong mga kababayan natin na may penchant na mag-share ng pekeng news," Trillanes said.
"The era of fake news is over. Lahat nung mga magkakalat ng fake news ngayon ay mananagot sa ating batas. So iyan ang kailangan matutunan ng lahat ng mga nagkakalat ng fake news," he added.
Trillanes said he would soon file cases against Tulfo and Tesiorna at a regular court since they are both private individuals.
"Pinagaaralan pa kung anong specific cases ang ifile natin kay Mr. Erwin Tulfo. But not here because he is not a government official. But I definitely will, puwede na din mag-countdown si Mr. Erwin Tulfo," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had exposed the lawmaker’s supposed bank accounts in Singapore, forcing Trillanes to fly to the country to debunk the chief executive’s claims.
Duterte would later admit he made up a wrong account number to fool Trillanes. The supposedly "actual" account number the President later revealed, however, turned out "invalid" based on attempts to deposit money into it.
In Singapore, Trillanes went to DBS Bank where a manager informed him there were no bank accounts under his name.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano was also at the Ombudsman to support Trillanes, saying he hoped the complaint against Uson would serve as a lesson for those spreading fake news.
“Mahilig kasi ang gobyerno na maglabas ng impormasyon na hindi verified at sabihin lang na joke, at sabihin lang na hindi naman sinasadya o alleged. The fact is kung hindi verified yan wag mong ilabas,” Alejano said.
Not press censorship
Trillanes clarified that he was not curtailing press freedom by filing a case against Uson, who was a staunch supporter of Duterte during his presidential campaign.
The lawmaker said he had been holding his peace for a long time, noting that the fake news about his alleged offshore bank accounts was the last draw.
"No, definitely not (press censorship). I’ve been holding my peace, halos binabad mouth ako kung ano man, I’ve been holding my peace," Trillanes said.
"Pero iba ito e. Nagkalat sila ng pekeng impormasyon na diretso sa pagkatao ko at credibility ko as a public official. Nagsabi siya na mayroon akong offshore accounts na wala naman," he added. — with Trisha Macas/MDM/KVD, GMA News