MANILA, Philippines—Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Friday, September 22, filed criminal and administrative charges against Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson for spreading “fake news”.
“The era of fake news is over. Lahat ng magkakalat ng fake news ay mananagot sa ating batas. [Everyone who will spread fake news will be liable to law],” Trillanes said.
In a complaint filed before the Ombudsman, Trillanes stated that Uson violated the Cybercrime Prevention Act for libel, Anti-Graft and Practices Act, and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. The senator added that Uson is guilty of falsification and use of false documents.
These charges were laid after Uson alleged in social media that Trillanes have offshore bank accounts where his hidden wealth is stored.
“In the same article/Facebook post, Ms. Uson shared the images of and links to what appeared to be a number of uniform computer printed documents purportedly being offered to prove that the undersigned (Trillanes) had numerous bank accounts in foreign banks, which purportedly constitute his ‘tagong yaman’ (‘hidden wealth’),” the complaint read.
Trillanes also cried foul on Uson’s ‘attacks against his personality and credibility’.
“I’ve been holding my peace. Halos bin-a-bad mouth ako, kung ano man [I’ve almost been bad-mouthed, whatever]. I’ve been holding my peace kaso iba ito, eh [but this is different]. Nagkalat sila ng pekeng impormasyon na deretso sa pagkatao ko at credibility ko as public official. Nagsabi sila na mayroon akong offshore accounts na wala naman. [They spread false information that directly (affects) my personality and credibility as public official. They said I have offshore accounts that don’t exist],” the senator said.
On Tuesday, days after President Rodrigo Duterte gave out the account numbers of Trillanes’ alleged offshore bank accounts, the senator flew to Singapore and inquire to DBS Bank Alexandra Road branch and Hongkong Shanghai Bank Raffles branch if such accounts exist.
“No such bank accounts exist,” Trillanes quoted the bank teller.
Meanwhile, the charges of graft and conduct violations stemmed from Uson continuous performance as entertainer despite holding a government position.
In his administrative complaint against the assistant press secretary, Trillanes said that he asked for her immediate dismissal as government official.
“Kailangan n’ya (Uson) ng abogado, ‘yung magagaling na abugado at mabibigat itong mga kaso na fin-ile ko. [She needs a lawyer, the good ones because these are heavy charges I filed],” Trillanes said.
“As a responsible senior government official, mas mataas ang standards natin [our standards are higher]. Dapat bine-verify ‘yung truthfulness bago tayo mag-share [We should verify its truthfulness before we share]. So let this be a lesson not only to Mocha Uson but doon sa mga ordinaryong kababayan natin na may penchant na mag-share ng pekeng news [also to our ordinary fellowmen who have penchant for sharing fake news],” he added.
Trillanes also said that his legal team is discussing the possible legal actions they can file against PTV journalist Erwin Tulfo who, like Uson, accused Trillanes on social media of having offshore bank accounts.
As of press time, Uson has not released a statement on the complaints filed against her. However, early today, after hearing that Trillanes will be filing complaints against her, Uson said on social media: “Aantayin po naming ‘yan [We will wait for it], Mr. Senator.”
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella welcomed Trillanes’ complaint against Uson.
“He’s free to do so,” Abella said during a Friday press briefing.