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October 1, 2017

CEBU MAYOR OUTRAGED BY FAKE NEWS

O CEBU DAILY NEWS:  YES, I HAVE FILED MY SALN. NO, I AM NOT A VAMPIRE.

In an editorial entitled “Let the Sunshine In” published on Cebu Daily News and inquirer.net on September 25, 2017, Cebu Daily News FALSELY REPORTED that I have failed to file my Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for 2016…and that I am a vampire. Yup. CDN actually said this. Apparently, fake news doesn’t only come from trolls. And news doesn’t get any more fake than this. President Duterte himself has complained about slanted national news coverage from Inquirer. Apparently, so pervasive is this style of reporting that it has reached even local town mayors like me.

CDN FALSELY CLAIMS THERE IS NO RECORD OF MY SALN

According to CDN, “We find it troubling that several chief executives in Cebu failed to submit their statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) for 2016…for still unknown reasons, the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas has yet to locate the SALNs of several town mayors. They are Mayors … Ma. Esperanza Christina Frasco of Liloan…” “If the mayors have not submitted their SALNs, we call on them do so pronto. The Ombudsman may yet excuse their late filing.”

Seemingly couched in innocence but reeking of malice, CDN preaches that the filing of one’s SALN ensures that “leaders are not using their offices as money-making machines. Timely filing of a truthful SALN indicates that a government worker and his family have nothing to hide. Dutiful compliance also sets a good example and signals fairness to the rank and file who submit SALNs within the deadline, heavy workload notwithstanding…the SALN is one of the few instruments people may wield to keep leaders on the path of integrity.”

Because it is apparently the paragon of integrity, preach, CDN, preach.

CDN CLAIMS I AM A VAMPIRE

CDN talks about indictments and impeachment over SALN misdeclarations. And then, drum roll please, CDN says government workers (like me) who have allegedly failed to file their SALNs are like “vampires who quake in their boots with the coming of dawn.”

Mind you, the editorial comes complete with a caricature of an apparently unseemly vampire-government worker attempting to hide in a coffin. Ouch.

To summarize, according to CDN, I have failed to file my SALN. Therefore, I must be using my office as a money-making machine. I and my family must have something to hide. I have set a bad example and am unfair to my fellow workers in government. I may be indicted. I have no integrity. And, and, and, I am a vampire.

Wow. Just wow. I have seen my fair share of fake news in my day (Hello, Cebu Flash Report), but CDN has just taken it to another level. Twilight levels to be exact.

I HAVE FILED MY SALN BEFORE THE OMBUDSMAN TWICE SINCE I BECAME MAYOR

For the record, I HAVE FILED MY SALN. As a matter of fact, because of my diligence and eagerness to comply with this requirement of law, I HAVE FILED MY SALN NOT ONLY ONCE, BUT TWO TIMES. First, right after I assumed Office last year, and again this year. As required by Office of the Ombudsman Memorandum Circular No. 2, s. 2017, I filed both my SALNs before our Human Resource Management Office (HRMO), which then submitted my SALNs to the Office of the Ombudsman on August 12, 2016 after I assumed Office; and on June 28, 2017, well before the June 30 deadline this year.

THE OMBUDSMAN NEVER SAID I DID NOT FILE MY SALN, AND CDN NEVER CONTACTED ME PRIOR TO FALSELY ACCUSING ME OF NON-FILING

The way the article is maliciously written, you would think that the Ombudsman has definitively concluded to CDN that my SALN is nowhere to be found, and therefore, I must not have filed it. You would presume as well that, in the spirit of accuracy, fairness, and balance in journalism, CDN would have bothered to call me or the HRMO of Liloan to verify whether or not I filed my SALN.

To be clear, the Ombudsman has NEVER STATED THAT I DID NOT FILE MY SALN. CDN NEVER CONTACTED ME PRIOR TO PUBLISHING its malicious article to verify if I indeed filed my SALN.

CDN FALSELY CLAIMS THERE IS NO RECORD OF MY SALN EVEN AFTER THE OMBUDSMAN SAID IT IS STILL LOCATING MY SALN AMONG THEIR VOLUMINOUS RECORDS

Lo and behold, on September 28, 2017, THREE DAYS AFTER CDN published its editorial, a certain Morexette Erram from CDN sent me a Viber Message saying “can we ask a copy of your SALN for 2016 since we visited the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas twice already and they told us they’re STILL LOCATING YOUR RECORDS because they were arranging all the documents stored in their office…”

Meanwhile, another reporter texted our HR yesterday, “The Ombudsman can’t locate her SALN for now man gud along with 9 others due to the volume of documents.”

Key words:

  • “STILL LOCATING” my records. Not “THERE IS NO RECORD” of my filed SALN.
  • “CAN’T LOCATE” my SALN “DUE TO THE VOLUME OF DOCUMENTS.” Not “MAYOR FRASCO DID NOT FILE HER SALN.”

Apparently, while the Ombudsman is still physically arranging its voluminous records, CDN has maliciously rearranged the facts.

FIRST THEY TROLL YOU, THEN THEY HOLD YOU HOSTAGE

CDN has issued no apologies for accusing me of committing a crime and for painting me corrupt. No justification for maligning my name and hard-earned reputation. And certainly no excuse for calling me a vampire and for its fake news against me. Just this: Give us your SALN because we wish to publish it (and presumably make more malicious insinuations against me).

So let me get this straight. You accuse me of committing a crime, of being a corrupt government official, of having zero integrity, and of being a blood-sucking vampire, so now I should give you an exclusive interview so you can sow more intrigue and sell your paper?

As a public official, the law requires me to file my SALN. I have done that, not just once, but two times.

As a publication purporting to be real news, the law requires CDN to ferret out and publish the truth. It has not done that.

Instead, CDN peddles libelous and malicious lies.

Even after our HRMO wrote to CDN to correct their misinformation, CDN has not published a retraction, in effect, holding me hostage until I give in to their demand for an exclusive.

CDN’S FAKE NEWS IS A DISSERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY

To be honest, when I first read the CDN editorial on September 25 – the day of my grandfather, Pabling Garcia’s 92nd birthday, I found it to be so ridiculous that I dismissed it and said to myself, why even bother responding to, and dignifying, a complete and utter lie?

However, when I visited my grandfather yesterday, he looked at me, genuinely disturbed and asked, “Day, ingon ang CDN wala kuno ka ni-file sa imo SALN? Na-unsa gud ni, Day?”

And there it hit me. Fake news has reached this man whose opinion of me I value the most, and it has probably reached many others, too. And just like that, a cloud of doubt now hovers over me even as I have shed blood, sweat, and tears this past year trying to not only do my duty, but to do it with honesty, transparency, and above all, integrity.

The world is full of cynicism so make of this what you will. I entered public service because I genuinely want to serve my community, and contribute positive change to our country. But I realize now that it is increasingly difficult for public servants like me to succeed, because the system itself, publications like CDN most especially, sets you up to fail. Will CDN give me at least a fair shot? I will probably have to wait until the Sunset of Eternity for that.

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