Pacquiao asks PNP to probe fake news, fake PDP-Laban memoBy HANA BORDEY,GMA News
Senator Manny Pacquiao has sought the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to identify individuals behind the fake information about his alleged involvement in the construction of the Sarangani Sports Complex and the proliferation of fake PDP-Laban resolution that bears his forged signature.
Pacquiao, represented by his legal team, sent two letters to PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar through the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) asking separate investigations into the “fake news” on the infrastructure project that “discredit his reputation as public servant,” as well as the fake PDP-Laban document allegedly released by the camp of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
In the first letter, Atty. Pelagio Lawrence Cuison said Pacquiao’s camp has identified 27 cases of fake news claiming that Pacquiao has committed corruption in the construction of the P3.5-billion Sarangani Sports Complex.
The false information was made by different proponents and individuals for which cases of cyber libel may be filed against, Cuison added.
The lawmaker’s camp asked the PNP-ACG to identify the real names, whereabouts, and gather relevant pieces of evidence for the filing of cases.
Pacquiao’s camp claimed that the largest proliferation of the fake news came when Kingdom of Jesus Christ leader Apollo Quiboloy “imputed the criminal act of corruption with regard to a certain incomplete or dilapidated infrastructure project, involving a sports center.”
“The remarks of Apollo C. Quiboloy were made in a broadcast of SMNI News Channel, a free-to-air news and public affairs television network. It is of public knowledge that Apollo C. Quiboloy owns SMNI News Channel,” the letter read.
It further claimed that the fake news originated from a certain Butch Ruiz Baliao.
Cuison explained that the P3.5 billion cited in the fake information being spread over social media for the Sarangani Sports Complex construction was the budget allocated for the establishment of the Philippine Sports and Training Center to be located in Bataan under Republic Act 11214 or the Philippine Sports Training Center Act.
Pacquiao, who authored the law, said its allocation was not fully realized since the budget had to be realigned for COVID-19 response.
“Clearly, all remarks and information relating to an unfinished P3.5 billion Sports Center, which is the main topic of the fake news against Sen. Pacquiao, are baseless and malicious. Such act is punishable under Section 4(c)4 of RA 10175, in relation to Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal Code,” the letter stated.
Cuison mentioned in the letter that Pacquiao is mulling appropriate civil, criminal, and administrative cases against Quiboloy and 26 other individuals for their remarks that “tarnished and caused undue anxiety and damage” to the lawmaker.
Pacquiao’s camp also complained about the fake news brought about by a PDP-Laban document indicating a “confidential plan” dated June 8, 2021. The alleged fake document bears the forged signature of the lawmaker-boxer.
The said fake document stated that party vice chairman Alfonso Cusi and his allies have “no allegiance towards the organization and has selfish agenda and destruction of PDP-LABAN completely.”
Cuison argued that the July 9, 2021 resolution of the PDP-Laban National Executive Committee, already ordered the immediate and automatic expulsion of Cusi, Ms. Astra Naik, and Atty. Melvin Matibag.
“Hence, in an attempt to save their faces, they together with online influencers, and a certain Atty. Trixie Cruz of Angeles & Ahmed Paglinawan Law Offices, and Manila Times columnist, Bobi Tiglao, released and made mention of a fake document dated 8 June 2021 claiming Senator Manny Pacquiao requested for a confidential plan to oust the aforementioned individuals,” the letter read.
Pacquiao’s camp said the fake document was posted and shared by Cruz, Tiglao, Matibag and Naik on Facebook.
Cusion noted that the PDP-Laban has already rebuked the said fake document through its Facebook post, reiterating that Cusi, Naik and Matibag were already expelled from the ruling party.
Pacquiao will seek appropriate civil, criminal, and administrative charges against the three PDP-Laban officials, Cuison said.
Cruz says they did nothing wrong
Responding to this, Cruz, during her radio program on dwIZ on Wednesday, said they could not be charged with cyber libel as they were not the ones who originally posted the supposed memo on the Internet.
"I checked. Apparently hindi naman kami ang original poster which means that hindi siya papatak sa cyberlibel among other things. May mga requirements na hindi siya tumupad. I don’t want to discuss it kasi mamaya maging kaso gagamitin ko pang depensa iyan," she said.
She said they were only urging "due process" when they shared the memo ordering the dismissal of Cusi and the others.
"So ang commentary namin dito you don’t unilaterally expel people, you give them due process. You give them an opportunity to explain," she said.
Cruz said Pacquiao should have called her attention first regarding the matter instead of going straight to the PNP
"Ang sa akin kasi if you wanted to tell me that there was something wrong in what I posted, you have to call my attention to it. He didn’t bother to do," the lawyer said, as she agreed that the source of the supposed fake memo should be investigated.
"Parang ang nakikita ko dito, it’s a show of power, it’s a chilling effect. Senador ako, uutusan ko trying to make it look like, inuutusan ko ang PNP imbestigahan kayo for your fake news," Cruz added.
Sought for comment, Cusi did not address the supposed memo and fake news issue but rather wished Pacquiao good luck for his upcoming boxing match in the United States.
“We all know that Sen. Pacquiao is busy preparing for his upcoming fight. I suggest we give him the space that he needs and not divide his focus. I wish him goodluck in his upcoming bout. We can discuss all his political issues when he comes back after his bout,” Cusi told GMA News Online.
Matibag, meanwhile, shrugged off the issue.
"We do not want to pay attention to this anymore. This is a non-issue for us," he told GMA News Online in a message.
He said at present, PDP-Laban is busy organizing its stronghold in regions and provinces "and make sure our candidates dominate the 2022 National and Local Elections so we can push for the Party’s agenda beyond President Duterte’s term."
"We advise Senator Manny Pacquiao to just concentrate on his fight with Errol Spence because that is where his competence lies," Matibag said.
GMA News Online has sought comments from the other personalities mentioned in Pacquiao's letter, but they have yet to respond as of posting time. --with Virgil Lopez, Ted Cordero and Hana Bordey/LDF/KBK, GMA News