CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Friday, May 22, it was “alarmed” by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s publicly shaming a netizen in retaliation for Facebook comments criticizing and insulting her and her provincial government.
“It is a cause for concern for CHR, especially that some personal information of the commenter was disclosed to the public,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
“[The info] included her full name, barangay of residence, and relationship history among others. The Governor even made personal remarks on the physical appearance of the woman based on the photos posted on her Facebook account,” said De Guia.
The CHR reminded Garcia, “We seek to remind public officials—elective or appointive—that they are bound by high standards of ethics in public service.” The CHR added, “They must perform their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, and respect and shall be accountable to the people they are serving.”
What happened? On Monday, May 18, Garcia held a briefing with the local press where she usually goes over the latest coronavirus updates in the province.
During the presscon, she pulled out large sheets of paper with Facebook comments printed on it, while having the posts broadcast on half the screen through Sugbo News, the province’s public information office.
What did the netizen say? In the first comment, she said in Cebuano: “How terrible the GCQ is, is there not a second wave that we’ll get? You guys are not thinking that the people have no work, and where will we get food. Better if we get work, the money would be there right away. You might be stupid, here we’re starving with children and no clear assistance.
In the second comment: “Cebu is becoming famous for being corrupt while the people starve with no help.”
On the last, she said: “There’s a store there in Bagsakan, what should we buy things with then?”
Why was Gwen angry? She was particularly upset that the netizen called her “bogo”, “kurakot” and “nagkiat” (Stupid, corrupt, and flippant).
“Kinsa’y kurakot, Day’? Pagklaro sa imong gisulti ha? Kay ikiha ta ka. Kinsa ma’y kurakot. Kinsa ma’y nangurakot. Pagklaro kuno. Asa dapita? Muna muna gani nato diri’g paningkamot,” she told the netizen in Cebuano.
(Who is corrupt, miss? Be careful with your words, okay? Because we’ll sue you. Who is corrupt? Who is doing corruption? Be clear. Where? We’re doing our best here.)
What Garcia said: During the almost 7-minute video, Garcia revealed the barangay where the netizen resided, that she was separated from her first husband and wasn’t married to her second husband, and had 7 kids from 2 different men.
“Kasikad gud nimo manulti. Tanawa oh. Pito na kabuok imong anak day’, uy. Ayaw pag shorts diha (You talk so tough. Look. You have 7 kids already, miss. Don’t wear shorts like that),” Garcia said.
“Naa kay duha ka dalagita nimo. Nag backless pa ka, nya ikaw nagposing posing man ka? Nangita ka ikatulo? Humana ka’g duha, nangita tingali ka’g tulo. Mapun-an napud imong pito (You have 2 girls. You’re wearing backless, and you’re posing like that? Are you looking for a 3rd [husband]? You’re going to have more kids), ” she added.
She said at least 3 times in the video that the information came from barangay health workers. Since the pandemic began, the health workers were assigned in areas to monitor for possible cases of coronavirus.
At the end of the press conference, Garcia said: “And next time, please, don’t call us corrupt, stupid, because I’ll have you come face us here. Wear your shorts and backless when you come here.”
While showing her picture to the media, Gwen said in Cebuano: “Look at this. This is the poorest of the poor? love love love.” “If this is the face of someone hungry, how does someone full look?” she added.
Commission on Human Rights’ reply. “[The] CHR also reminds officials and other workers in the government, such as Barangay Health Workers, that a person’s right to privacy is a protected right under the Constitution. Further, under the Data Privacy Act, any sensitive personal and privileged information should never be disclosed without a person’s consent and any violation under this Act, if proven, have corresponding penalties,” they said.
They encouraged local governments to use technology to “improve” governance, rather than to “bully.”
“These online platforms have the potential to bridge the gap between the governor and the governed, so it should be used to connect and improve services rather than drive a wedge or to be a means of great harm—such as, the propagation of dangerous lies, victimisation of the weak, the bullying of the vulnerable, and the humiliation of the disadvantaged,” the CHR said.
Garcia said in response to the CHR’s statement that they were entitled to their reaction. “It’s fine by me,” she said.
The governor reiterated that she believes that the citizen was wrong in calling her office names.
“So long as they don’t also resort to calling us ‘bogo,’ ‘kurakot’ and ‘nagkiat,’ to mention just a few of the names these netizens wantonly post,” she added.
The head of the provincial government shot back at the CHR, asking if they were “alarmed” about the netizen’s “libelous” post.
On freedom of speech, Garcia said she was open to criticism as long as it’s done in a “civilized manner.” She added, “not this name calling, or cursing us out right away.”
“I mean, public official or netizen, we’re both humans, right? Shouldn’t we both be entitled to the same human rights that the Commission on Human Rights has vowed to protect? Something like equal protection before the law?,” Garcia asked. “Just saying.” – Rappler.com