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Roxas on Thinking Pinoy's allegation: Fake news

Former DILG Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II claimed that the accusation that he tried to shield himself from bad publicity at the height of the fallout from the Mamasapano massacre was "fake news." Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines — Former Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II claimed that the accusation of a blogger that he tried to shield himself from bad publicity at the height of the Mamasapano tragedy is "fake news."

According to Roxas, he did not know a certain Joyce Ramirez, a supposed social media influencer allegedly paid by the former Department of the Interior and Local Government chief to make the hashtag "NasaanAngPangulo" trend at the height of the fallout from the death of 44 Special Action Force commandos of the Philippine National Police.

"Hindi ko kilala at wala akong kinalaman kahit katiting sa iyo, kay Joyce Ramirez o sa sinasabi mong Nasaan ang Pangulo," Roxas said on Twitter.

He also challenged Rey Joseph Nieto, the blogger behind the Thinking Pinoy Facebook page followed by hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, to provide evidence of his accusation.

"Diretso akong tao. Hindi ako pailalim kumilos," added Roxas.

Nieto, a social media consultant to the Department of Foreign Affairs, alleged in a Senate committee hearing on fake news that Roxas paid Ramirez to get the hashtag to trend to focus the attention of the public on then President Benigno Aquino III and his alleged absence during the aftermath of the bloody raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

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Nieto told the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media that the "NasaanAngPangulo" hashtag was part of a public relations campaign of Roxas to shield himself from public criticism over the way the former Aquino administration handled the issue as part of his plan to seek the presidency in 2016.

Roxas ran and lost during the 2016 national elections. He was the secretary of the DILG when 44 SAF commandos were killed by a combined force of several Islamist groups as they tried to apprehend a foreign terror suspect in Mamasapano.

Although the DILG had administrative control over the PNP, Roxas was not informed of the operation and was in the dark during its conduct.

"The #NasaanAngPangulo campaign, based on the information that I got, is a campaign that's intended to pin down all the blame over the Mamasapano incident on former President Aquino apparently so that if Mar runs for the presidency he can be shielded from the bad PR," Nieto claimed.

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However, Roxas labeled this as "devoid of logic" as the ex-DILG chief was trying to secure the endorsement of Aquino that time.

"Bakit ko siya sisiraan eh inaasahan ko nga ang endorsement niya. Konting thinking naman, diba?" Roxas said.

Despite failing to be informed of the bloody police operation, Roxas stayed in Aquino's Cabinet and eventually secured his endorsement.

Roxas lost to President Rodrigo Duterte who got more than 16 million votes which represented more than 38 percent of the total votes cast.

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Sen. Grace Poe, who also sought the presidency last year, said that Nieto's claims were a mere hearsay although they were "controversial and strong."

The Senate committee asked Nieto to provide documents supporting his accusation.

READ: Andanar: Robredo not involved in e-mail 'oust' plot but staff may be

Former Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who was also a resource person during the hearing, decried the allegation and labeled it "very malicious."

He said that Aquino chose to skip the heroes' welcome for the bodies of the 44 killed police commandos to provide the families of the cops time to be among themselves.

READ: Aquino no-show at arrival honors for SAF troopers, goes to car plant

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