VERA FILES FACT CHECK: YouTube channels WRONGLY claim Chel Diokno ‘involved’ in ABS-CBN loan debacle

Two YouTube channels erroneously claimed in videos posted on Feb. 18 that the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) named lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno as an “accomplice” of ABS-CBN in an alleged scheme to evade paying taxes.

This claim is fake.

To further the disinformation, Showbiz Fanaticz and JONZ TV published their clips with the following headlines:

  • “BREAKING: DBP INILAGLAG na si CHEL DIOKNO Matapos ang PAGNANAKAW ng ABSCBN| DIOKNO KASABWAT ng ABS (DBP betrays Chel Diokno after ABS-CBN’s corruption | Diokno an accomplice of ABS-CBN)!!”
  • “CONFIRMED:CHEL DIOKNO BISTADO INILAGLAG ng DBP!KASABWAT ng ABS CBN sa Pagnanakaw! NETIZENS Galit Na (Chel Diokno caught, betrayed by DBP! Accomplice of ABS-CBN in stealing! Netizens angry)!”

The concoction was echoed by a narrator in the first minute of Showbiz Fanaticz’s post. JONZ TV’s narrator curiously had a script identical to the other channel’s, though it ran a minute longer. Both used as content a 30-minute excerpt from a three-and-a-half-hour Feb. 17 Congressional inquiry on allegations that the DBP wrote off the broadcasting network’s loans nearly two decades ago.

The clips began with Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Michael Defensor reading out the names of attendees of a 2004 DBP meeting supposedly about the loan condonation.

Diokno’s full name was mentioned, which prompted Defensor to ask a DBP representative if the person is indeed “Atty. Chel.” The latter affirmed it, then said, “I am not aware, Sir, in what capacity he was present in this meeting.”

A day later, several YouTube videos surfaced alleging that the state-run bank had betrayed Diokno and branded him as an “accomplice” of ABS-CBN. Nowhere in the hearing did DBP representatives discredit the former senatorial candidate.

Diokno himself denounced the social media posts as “fake news.” In statements on his official Facebook (FB) and Twitter accounts, Diokno clarified that he was a consultant at the time of the meeting and had no decision-making power.

“I was a consultant of DBP from 2004–2006; at bilang (and as a) consultant, I had no decision-making powers. Ang trabaho ko lang, magpayo on legal matters bilang abogado. Basic ito: board of directors lang ang may kapangyarihan magdesisyon (My only job was to advise on legal matters as a lawyer. This is basic: the board of directors are the only ones with the power to make decisions),” Diokno wrote.

The videos carrying the fake claims surfaced a day after the House of Representatives resumed its hearing to probe loans of the Lopez Group with DBP. Less than two weeks earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow ABS-CBN to operate unless it has settled all its taxes to the government.

Several members of Congress have alleged that the country lost at least P1.6 billion after DBP supposedly wrote off loans of the Lopez Group, which owns a huge chunk of the network.

The bank, however, has repeatedly denied that a condonation was made. This was reiterated in the recent House inquiry, where DBP said the loans had been sold to Lehman Brothers, a U.S. investment bank that collapsed during the 2008 global financial crisis. Lopez Holdings has maintained that it had settled all obligations with institutions that bought DBP’s loans.

Showbiz Fanaticz joined Youtube on Nov. 9, 2017, and its video has over 200,000 views. It could have reached 89,452 people, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. JONZ TV was created on Jan 7, 2020. Its video has over 1,600 views.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)