An online article falsely claimed that the Office of the Ombudsman is set to file charges against re-elected Senator Risa Hontiveros for spreading lies during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation of the Pharmally funds scam.
On June 22, a website published a story that bore an untrue headline: “NAKARMA na! HONTIVEROS TULOYAN (sic) ng KINASOHAN (sic) ng OMBUDSMAN TRYDOR (sic) at HUDAS sa SENADO NAGULANTANG IYAK! (Bad karma! Hontiveros charged by the Ombudsman; traitors in Senate shocked, wept!)”
A brief text in the erroneous article also said lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of two Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executives during the Senate investigation, filed the complaint before the Ombudsman against Hontiveros.
This claim is not true. There are no official records or legitimate news reports stating that charges have been lodged against the senator by the Ombudsman.
Embedded in the article is a video with the same spurious headline. As a muted clip of Topacio talking played, the video narrator erroneously stated that Topacio said the Ombudsman is filing two cases against Hontiveros for spreading falsehoods during the Pharmally probe.
Topacio said no such thing. In fact, the clip of the lawyer speaking was from an unrelated March 2022 interview with Sonshine Media Network International News, where the legal counsel explained the estate tax issue of the Marcoses.
In November last year, Pharmally staff Jaime Vegas submitted a 15-page complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman, accusing Hontiveros of sedition and perjury, which the senator vehemently denied. The legal watchdog has yet to release a decision on the complaint.
Earlier this month, Hontiveros said she is “very willing” to file a resolution in the 19th Congress to continue the probe into the government’s alleged anomalous transactions with Pharmally.
The inaccurate article has garnered more than 3,400 interactions and was shared by at least 44 Facebook (FB) groups and pages, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. Its top traffic generators are FB groups Rodante Marcoleta for Senator (created on May 27, 2020), Mike Defensor For Senator Movement (Aug. 28, 2020) and FB page Solid Duterte 2022 (Aug. 4, 2020). The video was published by YouTube channel JONZ TV.
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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)