MANILA, Philippines — A consultant of the Department of Foreign Affairs who is also a pro-administration blogger claimed former Interior secretary Manuel Roxas II was behind a campaign to boost his presidential bid by pinning the blame for the 2015 Mamasapano incident on former President Benigno Aquino III.
Rey Joseph Nieto, who is behind the “Thinking Pinoy” blog, also claimed a former member of Senator Francis Pangilinan’s staff is one of those behind an anti-administration blog, #SilentNoMorePH, that accused seven Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senators Vicente Sotto III, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Gregorio Honasan and Manny Pacquiao of not voting for a resolution calling for an end to the killing of youth.
Nieto, who appeared at the hearing on fake news of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, claimed Joyce Ramirez, who he described as a public relations practitioner, had been hired by Roxas to run the “Nasaan ang Pangulo” campaign, which trended after Aquino chose to attend the opening of an automobile plant on the day the remains of a number of the 44 police Special Action Force commandos who were killed in the January 2015 Mamasapano incident arrived in Manila.
But the blogger was immediately challenged by Aquino’s then spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, who called Nieto’s claims baseless and “malicious.”
Lacierda, a lawyer, also said Nieto was “accusing based on six degrees of separation. That is not considered as evidence.”
On the other hand, Nieto said Cocoy Dayao and Pangilinan’s alleged former staff member, Nina Terol-Zialcita, ran #SilentNoMorePH.
Nieto, who, like other pro-administration bloggers like Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson bill themselves as “alternatives” to mainstream media, claimed mainstream media know who Dayao and Zialcita are “pero nagpapanggap sila (but they pretend not to).”
Nieto: Alam hanapin ng mainstream media pero nagpapanggap sila.
He also surmised that “mainstream media has a grudge against Thinking Pinoy,” which is why no outfit picked up his information on Dayao and Zialcita.
Nieto suggested that the chamber to invite Dayao, Pete Silva who he linked to the “LeniLeaks” controversy, and Ramirez.
Poe said Dayao had been sent an invitation but did not show up. She said he would be subpoenaed should the committee hold another hearing.
Although he had threatened to “hunt down” those behind “SilentNoMorePH,” he also asked that Nieto submit documentary proof of his claims.
Nieto was also challenged by veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files, whom he singled out early in his testimony, saying her fact-check of his accusations against photojournalist Jes Aznar, who the blogger had accused of “endangering” soldiers battling extremists in Marawi City by posting videos he took while covering the fighting soon after it broke out in late May.
Tordesillas, who outfit is the only one in the country accredited with the International Fact-Checking Network, said their findings showed that, contrary to Nieto’s claims, nothing Aznar had posted had placed troops in danger since these were all posted after he and the soldiers had left the battle area.
At one point, Nieto had also attacked Undersecretary Joel Egco, a former journalist who is executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Safety, for defending Aznar against the accusation,
When Nieto posted his accusation against Aznar, he included a call for authorities to investigate the photojournalist. His followers also bashed Aznar online, at times threatening him.
Aznar called Nieto out for referring to his Marawi coverage, calling it “very foul and vile.”
The photojournalist, who has worked extensively for outfits here and abroad, said he continued to be “I am in close coordination with the Philippine military on my coverages on the ground and have been granted exclusive coverages many times.”
“If Nieto’s accusations of endangering the troops were true, why is the AFP still allowing me to cover on the ground, and why is it until now there are no sanctions against me, especially if Mindanao is under a state of martial law?” he asked.
He also pointed out that both the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police have already certified that “Nieto’s claims are not true,” thus “his use of this issue at the Senate hearing is proof enough that he is spreading fake news.”
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