Mangudadatu files case vs netizens over 'drug lord' allegations


MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - A lawyer will put to a “litmus test” the Philippine cybercrime law by prosecuting fictitious Facebook users whom he said maligned Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu online.

Mangudadatu’s counsel, Israelito Torreon, on Friday said the case will involve about 1,300 respondents.

“They depicted the newly-reelected governor as a drug lord when in fact he is not,” Torreon said.

The case, to be filed next week, stemmed from Facebook posts by a certain Bai Utto, apparently a pseudo-name, who tagged Mangudadatu and two of his siblings, Khadafe and Ibrahim, as drug lords.

Many of the governor’s political allies were also named as drug lords in separate posts in the same Facebook account.

The Facebook page went online early this week, just after Mangudadatu announced he will support the anti-narcotics campaign of incoming President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, a long-time friend of the governor’s clan.

“Surprisingly, only the governor and his staunch political allies were maligned, none of the political personalities that were against them during the May 9 elections were mentioned in the malicious posts,” Torreon said.

Torreon said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is now helping them identify the culprits.

“We are thankful to the NBI’s cybercrime group for helping us out,” Mangudadatu said Friday during a press briefing in Buluan town in Maguindanao, which he and Torreon jointly presided over.

Mangudadatu said he is convinced the Facebook attacks were politically-motivated, instigated by rival quarters.

“It is Ramadan and it is so sinful to fabricate false, malicious and unfounded allegations during this holy month,” Mangudadatu said.

Muslims focus on charitable acts and reconciliation with adversaries while fasting at daytime during the 28-day Ramadan season, both as a religious obligation and a form of sacrifice for atonement of wrongdoings.

Mangudadatu said he and his younger brother, Ibrahim, most known as Datu Jong, have both exemplified their commitment to fight the drug problem in their hometown, Buluan, while serving as mayors one after another.

There are recorded cases of mysterious disappearance of drug peddlers in Buluan when they were at the helm of the municipal government.

“Some of those suspected of dealing drugs in Buluan were killed by unidentified people,” said an aide of the governor, who asked not to be identified.

Senior police and military officials in different intelligence units in Central Mindanao told reporters on Friday they do not have any derogatory information purporting that the Mangudadatus are drug lords.

“Obvious naman na pinupulitika lang sila. Tapos na ang election eh `bitter’ pa rin ang mga naging kalaban noong katatapos lang na halalan,” said an Army colonel, who was present on Friday's press briefing on the issue.

Torreon said among those they are to sue for violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 are people who, in their comments on the posts in the Bai Utto Facebook account, corroborated the allegations against the Mangudadatus.

“Obviously there was a bad, very malicious scheme,” Torreon said.

He said their legal suit, which is two-pronged, libel, based on the Revised Penal Code and violation of the anti-cybercrime law, could be the first of its kind in the history of Maguindanao province.

The case will be filed at the Maguindanao provincial prosecutor’s office, Torreon added.

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