UNA candidates cry ‘black propaganda’

A screenshot of the fake press release.

By JONATAN P. DE SANTOS, VERA Files

Candidates from the United Nationalist Alliance disowned on Sunday press releases allegedly from their camps that they said were part of a black propaganda campaign.

One e-mailed release, supposedly from Senator Gregorio Honasan II announced he was withdrawing from the race.

"Of course (it's fake). It's again the season for black propaganda, disinformation, (and) intrigue," Honasan told Vera Files in a text message.

The e-mail, made to appear like an official release from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau, was supposedly written by Honasan to announce that he is dropping his reelection bid because "I must now fulfill my greater duty to my children and my grandchildren, and especially to my wife Jane."

"I have received information that as the polls open tomorrow, my opponents will execute the final phase of their plan -- which involves allegations that could potentially cause irreparable damage to my family, and will be particularly hurtful to my beloved Jane," Honasan's supposed e-mail read.

It said it would be better for Honasan to withdraw from the race "with my honor intact, and my family sheltered from more malicious attacks."

It also said the United Nationalist Alliance has already accepted Honasan's withdrawal with "much sympathy and understanding."

The e-mail was supposedly sent through the same account that regularly sends out releases from the Senate PRIB. Gmail flagged it, however, saying it may not actually have been sent from that account.

"You'll see this warning if a sender is claiming to be from Gmail, but we couldn't confirm the email originated from a Gmail sender," Gmail explained in a FAQ on e-mail phishing.

Senate PRIB director Raymundo Corro issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying the e-mail was unauthorized and "grossly misleading."

He said the bureau "highly condemned" the unauthorized use of its e-mail address.

Also on Sunday, a press release supposedly from former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri was sent out to reporters.

The release attacked reelectionist Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, saying he should "take care of his home" and leave the Senate to Zubiri.

It was a reference to Pimentel's estrangement from wife Jewel Lobaton.

Zubiri had earlier accused Pimentel of being a wife beater, a charge that both Pimentel and Lobaton have denied.

Zubiri has denied that the press release came from his office. He said the release was "an obvious
last minute black propaganda against me."

This was the third time that a fake press release was circulated to cast doubt on an UNA candidate.

On April 29, Cagayan Representative Jack Enrile disowned a press release supposedly from his office urging the public to "move on" from his alleged involvement in the death of actor Alfie Anido in 1981.

"The prescriptive period in the Anido murder case has lapsed. Let’s move on for the sake of national unity," the fake press release said.

The press release, supposedly quoting Enrile at a press release in Bulan, Sorsogon, was found on a Facebook page supposedly run by UNA volunteers.

Enrile was quick to deny ever saying that, however, going on record to say the supposed release was "fake and unauthorized."

That Facebook account has been dormant since then.

Ironically, the supposed Honasan e-mail lamented that "the campaign for the 2013 midterm election has proven to be one of the dirtiest fought."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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