Days before the Philippines, my homeland, marked the 34th anniversary of the first People Power Revolution in Edsa, a “revolution” of sorts was rumored in Barangay Tagpangi, in my home city of Cagayan de Oro.
Based on what I can glean from news websites and Facebook posts of friends in Cagayan de Oro's mainstream media, an armed group was supposedly spotted by an unverified source moving towards the hinterland barangay of Tagpangi which caused panic among 45 households or 200 families who fled to Barangay Lumbia for safety.
It didn't help that this unverified report of so-called communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels heading towards Tagpangi “spread like wildfire” through social media and later picked up by some mainstream media outlets who took sometime to fact check and later clarify that it was nothing more than an unfounded rumor.
But still the damage was done and like that now infamous incident of the mass hysteria of families who fled their homes after someone shouted “Tsunami” in a Cebu City barangay back in February 2012, the Tagpangi case is yet another disturbing reminder of the power of fake news.
Unlike the Cebu City mass hysteria case which arose after city residents experienced a mild tremor prior to being scared out of their wits—the man accused of sparking the hysteria, a former radio blocktimer, claimed that he shouted his niece's name “Chona Mae” after he got alarmed when he was unable to find her after the tremor and residents misheard what he said and understood it as “tsunami”–it had yet to be determined whether the Tagpangi case was the product of someone's machinations.
It also didn't help that Cagayan de Oro City along with other local cities, towns and provinces in Mindanao are still under martial law and any rumor or fake news masquerading as a verified news story will result in a crackdown on suspected dissidents and critics of the present administration.
It's no small coincidence that some persons in Cagayan de Oro known to be critical of the administration's war on drugs had been tagged as communist sympathizers by trolls in social media believed or alleged to be working with the camp of mayoral candidate Pompee La Viña.
Whether or not the Tagpangi incident is the handiwork of those trying to discredit the administration of Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno or are being exploited by said trolls under the employ of those with an axe to grind against the mayor is something that needs looking into by authorities lest it encourage and fuel rumor-mongering that would destabilize the city's peace and order climate.
I simply find it nauseating to the point of vomiting the mudslinging and online bullying of trolls employed by those who wish to bring down the incumbent administration in City Hall.
Am sure by now that this is par for the course in Philippine politics but I still find it dreadful that some parties would resort to these execrable, abominable tactics even ahead of the campaign period for local candidates next month.
This bears watching among Cagayan de Oro City residents who must now double down and monitor the news, being extra careful to separate fact from malicious rumor and roundly condemn and flush out these purveyors of lies and deceit.