This is not fake news

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SASS ROGANDO SASOT

SUFFERING from conceptual overstretch, the label “fake news” has been used by the opposition to label perspectives they do not agree with or views that acerbically counter their political positions.

Take for example how the Union of Progressive Students (UPS), a student organization at the University of the Philippines-Cebu aligned with Akbayan party-list, will be using the word “fake news” to slander me.

This Thursday, September 7, UPS will hold a forum on the “distribution of fake news”. The event’s poster included my picture and the pictures of Secretary Martin Andanar and Assistant Secretary Margaux Uson of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). We are not speakers in that forum called “What The Fact!” Thus, using our pictures in that poster is nothing but a malicious imputation that we are distributing “fake news.”

It is interesting that UPS did not include any Facebook page aligned with the Liberal Party, such as Silent No More. A major Liberal Party Facebook page with more than 300,000 followers, Silent No More published in June a screenshot of a CCTV footage they claimed to show what really happened during the Resorts World shooting incident.

“We got this CCTV grab from a Resorts World employee, it shows more than one gunman,” Silent No More said.

Silent No More intended to falsify the official version of events that there was only one gunman. After conducting a Google image search of the screenshot, I was led to a You Tube video of the armed heist in Savannah Casino in Suriname on December 28, 2011. Though they apologized after they were called out, the damage was already done.

Also, who could forget how former Akbayan party-list representative Barry Gutierrez propagated during the 2016 elections the survey results of D’Strafford which showed Mar Roxas, the LP presidential candidate, to be leading the polls? D’Strafford is a fake polling company that was established in April 2016 and was never heard of again.

Occasionally, my Facebook page @forthemotherlandph gets visited by fake Facebook accounts and some Liberal Party supporters, just to comment that I am a purveyor of fake news. And every time I challenge them to prove that any of my posts are actually “fake news.” No one ever did.

I am very confident that UPS will not be able to provide any evidence to prove that I have been publishing fake news in my Facebook page. I have consulted a lawyer about this, and she told me that the poster UPS circulated in their Facebook page is indeed libelous. So, I am considering filing a cyber-libel case against them.

But I would like to exhaust all possible internal remedies of UP-Cebu. I trust that lawyer Liza Corro, the Chancellor of UP-Cebu, will respond positively to my open letter asking her to take any appropriate action regarding this issue.

This is not the first time I have been subjected to deliberate false claims by someone from Akbayan. In February 2017, the UP Political Society invited me to be one of their resource speakers in a talk on fake news. Professor Herbert Docena also spoke.

When the floor was opened to questions, Docena and I engaged in a mini-debate. He asked me what I thought about the failure of the Duterte administration to fulfil his promise to end contractualization. Docena twisted my answer in a Facebook post he wrote after the event.

He said: “Echoing the very justification of the Aquino government that [Sass] has repeatedly lambasted, she defended Duterte by saying that he couldn’t just end contractualization because he also had to ‘consider the interests of those businesses who may be hurt.’ She expressed impatience with my ‘impatience’: Duterte still has six years in office and contractual workers should wait first before complaining, she argued.”

The event was broadcast live on Facebook. A lot of people watched it and they were able to attest that I did not say that “contractual workers should wait first before complaining.” As evidenced by the recording of the event, what Isaid was that there were different interests that needed to be balanced — the interests of the workers and the employers. Yet despite overwhelming evidence against his misrepresentation of my argument, Docena did not correct his post at all.

Some say I should not keep my hopes high that Akbayan-aligned UPS would provide evidence to support their claim that I am distributing fake news, let alone expect that they would apologize. With how Gutierrez and Docena unapologetically spread proven lies, I am inclined to believe that.

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