Fighting disinformation

Ayala Corp urges public to take action vs fake news after winning cyber libel cases

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Ayala Corp urges public to take action vs fake news after winning cyber libel cases
The Zobel de Ayala-led firm wins cyber libel cases against a Twitter user who claimed that Ayala Corporation supports the New People's Army

MANILA, Philippines – Ayala Corporation, one of the oldest and largest Philippine companies, is not taking fake news lightly and is urging the public to hold those behind disinformation accountable. 

In a statement sent to Rappler on July 19, Wednesday, the publicly-listed holding company said it has “amicably settled” the cyber libel cases it filed against Ronald Jason J. Ramos who tweeted fake news against the firm founded in 1834.

“In May 2022: Ayala Corporation’s Twitter account (@AyalaCorp_1834) was repeatedly tagged by @Boeing7779X wherein the latter made tweets and retweets of defamatory imputations against Ayala Corporation,” Ayala Corporation told Rappler. 

Among the tweets of Ramos, who was then using the handle @Boeing7779X, were: 

– “…..@AyalaCorp_1834 …. Is bankrolling the New People’s Army….” 

– “ ….run after @AyalaCorp_1834 since ….. they are bankrolling all fake news in the Philippines and New Peoples Army” 

– “ @AyalaCorp_1834… The Ayalas bankroll the communists” 

@AyalaCorp_1834 is the official Twitter account of the holding company. 

The company hired cyber intelligence experts and service providers to trace the person using the alias and fake social media identity. 

The Zobel de Ayala-led firm then filed eight counts of cyber libel against Ramos for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Revised Penal Code.

“It was determined that the owner of the different accounts was one and the same person – Ronald Jason J. Ramos,” Ayala Corporation said. 

The Makati City Prosecutor found probable cause to charge Ramos with eight counts of cyber libel and issued a warrant of arrest for Ramos. 

Ramos was then arrested by authorities. To avoid going to jail, an amicable settlement was reached with Ramos which required him to issue a public apology “for spreading lies and falsehoods against Ayala Corporation.”

Ramos’ apology was then published in major newspapers and online outfits, such as this one below published in the broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 26, 2023. 

In his apology, Ramos admitted to being behind the handle @Boeing7779X, and to posting “false statements, malicious lies, fake news, and misinformation about certain persons, institutions, and corporations.” 

“I profusely apologize for my actions, which were irresponsible and malicious. I promise never again to post false statements and malicious imputations against any person or entity on any traditional or social media platform,” he said. “I urge social media users to stop posting lies, fake news and misinformation about any person or entity.”

Ramos said technology is now available that can identify and locate authors of posts, even those hiding behind fictitious names. 

“I was identified through the efforts of security, cybersecurity, and intelligence experts using the latest technologies,” he said. “Hiding behind a fake account will not save you from the consequences of your actions. Everyone should be responsible in the use of online platforms.”

We encourage everyone to hold people accountable for spreading lies and fake news which mislead the public. This is our shared responsibility.

– Ayala corporation

Ayala Corporation said that it filed the cyber libel cases against Ramos since the “Ayala community greatly values trust and integrity.” 

“In our own way, we want to do our part in addressing disinformation,” the company said in an email sent to Rappler. 

“By filing this case, we believe we are doing our role in upholding the truth. We will continue to monitor fake news and defamatory statements against Ayala and take necessary actions in accordance with the law,” it said. “We encourage everyone to hold people accountable for spreading lies and fake news, which mislead the public. This is our shared responsibility.” 

One of the policy risks the holding company has identified for itself is “reputational risks.” In its 2022 annual report, this is defined as “Damage to the Group’s reputation and erosion of brand equity” which “could also be triggered by the inability to swiftly and adequately handle negative traditional and social media sentiments against the Group’s products and services resulting from unfavorable customer experience, among others.” 

The report says the Ayala Group “closely monitors online sentiment to quickly detect issues being surfaced in social media and to be able to manage them early on.” 

The Ayala Group is one of the Philippines’ largest employers with interests in various sectors of the economy, including real estate, telecommunications, power, banking, infrastructure, health. Among its well-known companies are: Ayala Land Incorporated, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom Incorporated, AC Energy and Infrastructure Corporation, Ayala Healthcare Holdings Incorporated, Manila Water Company Incorporated, Integrated Micro-Electronics Incorporated. – Rappler.com

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.