Trillanes to sue Mocha Uson, Erwin Tulfo for libel

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is set to file libel charges against Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, radio commentator Erwin Tulfo, and a journalist allegedly behind a propaganda website.

Trillanes claimed these 3 are responsible for spreading fake news about his supposed offshore bank accounts, as alleged by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The senator identified the third person as a certain Ben Tesiorna, a supposed correspondent of CNN Philippines. The network, in a statement, denied that Tesiorna is an employee and clarified that he "was a contributor whose stories were used by CNN Philippines on occasion."

"Within the next few days, fa-file-an ko ng kaso si Erwin Tulfo, Mocha Uson, at si Mr Ben Tesiorna," Trillanes said in a press conference on Monday, September 11.

(Within the next few days, I'll file charges against Erwin Tulfo, Mocha Uson, and Mr Ben Tesiorna.)

"Kakasuhan ko sila ng libel. Hindi na pupuwede 'yung fake news. The era of fake news is over. Itong Duterte administration, nanalo kayo sa fake news. Pero ngayon, hindi na puwede 'yun. Hahabulin at hahabulin ko kayo every time," he said.

(I'll sue them for libel. I can't allow fake news to continue. The era of fake news is over. The Duterte administration won by spreading fake news. But now, that can't be. I'll go after you every time.)

Tesiorna is allegedly behind the Facebook page called Davao Breaking News - 2, one of the pages which posted details of Trillanes' alleged foreign accounts, which the senator claims are fake.

Fake bank accounts

Trillanes said two of the banks mentioned by the Duterte camp – Nova Scotia Bank and Hongkong Shanghai Bank – are "bogus" and non-existent.

The senator said the legitimate bank is called Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, commonly known as HSBC. The bank has branches in the Philippines.

A quick Google search would also show that there is no Nova Scotia Bank, just a Bank of Nova Scotia.

"Dito makikita na si Duterte ay napaka-sinungaling na tao at ginamit 'yung kapangyarihan ng gobyerno para masira 'yung mga miyembro ng oposisyon," Trillanes said.

(We can see that Duterte is a big liar and he is using the power of the government to destroy members of the opposition.)

During the press briefing, Trillanes also presented to the media copies of 12 signed bank secrecy waivers that he submitted to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Office of the Ombudsman.These documents were also notarized and received by the AMLC.

Trillanes once again challenged Duterte to sign waivers so the government could look into his bank accounts.

It was Trillanes who first accused Duterte of having billions of pesos in secret bank accounts during the 2016 campaign. Duterte has refused to sign documents and has only verbally ordered the AMLC to look into his accounts.

"'Di puwedeng boka-boka diyan, kailangan mo pumirma ng waiver. Kung matapang ka, 'di ka corrupt, pumirma ka ng waiver gaya ng ginawa ko ngayon, addressed sa AMLC at Ombudsman. Alam ko 'di mo 'yan gagawin dahil duwag ka sa katotohanan. Alam ko na kurakot ka, gaya nung iyong pamilya," he said.

(You can't just be all talk, you have to sign a waiver. If you're brave, if you're not corrupt, then sign a waiver like I did, addressed to the AMLC and Ombudsman. But I know you won't do that because you're afraid of the truth. I know you're corrupt, just like your family.) – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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