Fake news spreads in Cotabato City as Bangsamoro plebiscite nears

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rumors circulated Saturday night, January 19, that some Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) proponents in the city were rushed to the hospital due to food poisoning. (READ: As Bangsamoro vote nears, tensions rise in Cotabato City)

In a Facebook post, a certain Ainon Young G warned her fellow members of the Bangsamoro not to eat food that will be given for free, as some BOL supporters are in the hospital being treated for food poisoning.

In another FB post, user Tabs Blao Mapandi said the poisoning was a plot done by some groups to prevent people from voting on the January 21 plebiscite. She reminded her fellow BOL supporters to bring their own drinks and food during the plebiscite.

Meanwhile, in a conversation posted by Rufaida Abutazil Nor, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center Doctor Mohammad Ali Amil said the rumors are not true. "Fake news po... 'Wag pong maniwala... Inisa-isa po namin ang mga hospitals wala pong pasyente na na-food poison." (This is fake news... Don't believe it... We checked every hospitals but didn't find any patient of food poisoning.)

He also said that the mujahideens (Islamic fighters) were just on a hunger strike, and that the Bangsamoro Medical Society was monitoring the situation.

In a video uploaded Sunday, January 20, on her official Facebook page, Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi said the Cotabateños are already aware who are behind these fake news.

"At du'n naman sa mga taong wala nang ibang ginawa kundi magpakalat ng fake news at manloko, kahit ano pa man ang sabihin ninyo, wala na pong maniniwala at hanggang diyan na lang po kayo. Bistado na ang marumi ninyong trabaho ng mga nagkakaisang Cotabateño," she said. (And to people who have nothing to do but spread fake news and deception, whatever you say, nobody will believe you now. The united Cotabateños are already aware of your dirty works.)

A week ago, there were reported incidents of residents fleeing the city because of fear that an armed conflict will arise on the day of the plebiscite.

But Sayadi denied this. "It's not true. Walang umaalis dito. Nag-emanate lang naman ang takot dahil sa mga fake news sa social media," she said in an interview. (Nobody left. Fear only emanated from the people because of the fake news in the social media.)

On Monday, a total of 113,751 residents from the city's 37 barangays will cast their votes in 33 voting centers. (READ: If high vote turnout, Cotabato City may reject Bangsamoro Law) – Rappler.com

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