By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY --- A church leader criticized and roared as “Fake News” an article published on PTV4 online that claims thousands of Bicolanos have signed their pledge of support to the government-initiated Federalism Caravan series held last Friday, July 6, in this city.
Father Rex Arjona, executive director of the Diocese of Legazpi Social Action Center (SAC) in a text message said the report that appeared on PTV4 online was fake and a manipulative act that deceives the readers into believing that there was an outpouring of support for federalism.
Arjona was reacting to PTV4 report titled: “Over 6K Bicolanos pledge support for Federalism.” The news article came out on Saturday.
“What is inexcusable is how Albayanos have been manipulated by PTV4 and, to a certain extent, by the organizers, into being used as a tool to railroad federalism,” Arjona said.
“People were made to believe that there is a groundswell of support to federalism – where in fact, the latest survey state the contrary – at the expense of Bicolanos and Albayanos,” Arjona stressed.
Arjona said the attendance sheet they signed is evidence of attendance, not of support to Federalism.
Most government employees and barangay officials present in that event were required to attend.
Arjona called on the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional offices to issue a clarification on this issue, otherwise “we will consider you part of the Duterte regime’s fake news machinery. Next time you call on us, should we also say, ‘never again’” he added.
“Parang Marcos lag noon, tinanong lang ang audience kung sino’ng gusto ng pinamimigay na relief goods, nang itinaas ang mga kamay, counted na bilang mga boto sa knilang panukalang Konstitusyon,” he said.
According to Arjona, no draft of the proposed new constitution was distributed to the participants and at the open forum many questions were not answered satisfactorily.
A regional consultation on the draft federal system of government was held here on Friday with members of the Constitutional Committee created by Executive Order 10 as speakers.
After the regional consultations here, the next stop will be in Tacloban on July 11-13; Butuan on July 20-22 and in Cebu City on July 26-28.
Meanwhile, Eloisa Pastor, DILG regional director when asked to comment on the issue brought out by Fr. Arjona said the role of the agency was purely coordinative, “our task was to coordinate with concerned local officials all over the region about the Federal Consultation.”
The two-day event includes four activities: the press conference; town hall meeting with stakeholders; the Regional Consultation and the presentation of the Draft proposal to other interest groups.
“The agency [DILG] mandate as far as Federalism is concerned, is to reach as many interest groups in the communities as we can to prepare them for an informed decision when the Draft is present for ratification.” Pastor said.
When asked for reaction on Arjona’s claim that the story published by the PTV4 was Fake, Pastor said: “that’s their story, I am not in any position to explain to them.”
Amber Mirandilla of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) in a phone interview said participants to the consultation were required to sign their names for documentation and administrative purposes.
She said their task was to see to it that the regional consultation was smoothly carried out. She, however, would not comment on the news article by the PTV4.