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Another Carandang

I want to understand Deputy Overall Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang’s recent action of brazenly and deliberately spreading fake news. But I really can’t, so I’ll leave him to explain himself before the proper authorities.

After all, Carandang, a cousin of that unlamented former top Aquino-era propagandist Ricky Carandang, is already the subject of an administrative complaint filed yesterday by two former congressmen. And he is currently at the center of a controversy of his own creation, when he claimed to be in possession of official documents purportedly detailing the alleged ill-gotten wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The documents were fake, as even Carandang himself was forced to admit. This after the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which Carandang said was the source of the papers he presented to media, denied releasing any such data.

AMLC even evaluated Carandang’s claims of huge wealth stashed away by Duterte in local banks before washing its hands of the old Yellow tactic of adding inflows and outflows to come up with some outrageous figure. We don’t do that sort of shoddy arithmetic, the agency huffed, somewhat self-righteously.

(The reader will forgive me if I take a slightly dim view of AMLC’s latest actuations. I still remember how AMLC was misused during the Renato Corona impeachment trial – though the agency was known at that time only as “the little lady” who mysteriously and anonymously provided Corona’s bank statements to the Senate court.)

Perhaps Carandang thinks he is still working for Noynoy Aquino, who pushed for his appointment as the country’s second-highest corruption investigator despite his being earlier charged for robbery and extortion. Or maybe he believes that his being immune from criminal prosecution by anyone except his boss, Ombdusman Conchita Carpio-Morales, will keep him from being punished for his precipitate and totally boneheaded action.

Apparently, while Carandang is not an impeachable official like his boss Morales, he can only be charged criminally and removed by the Ombudsman herself. This is why the complaint filed against him before Duterte’s office yesterday was only administrative; even the President cannot remove a mere deputy Ombudsman.

Or it’s possible that Carandang thinks his lame excuse that he misspoke and actually meant he got his papers from a reporter instead of from AMLC will hold water. This is, after all, a favored Yellow appointee still being protected by another, apparently bullet-proof Yellow appointee – they’ve been known to lie through their teeth and get away with it.

Hey, Carandang’s luck has held all these years, because he has kept his position even after the transfer of power from Aquino to Duterte. Maybe he thinks he’s still untouchable.

Or maybe, as Duterte advised him to do, Carandang has really stormed the heavens with prayer. And maybe God advised Carandang, like he did Andy Bautista before him, to hang on because no harm will come to him.

I guess we shall see, won’t we?

* * *

As I write this, the mainstream press has still not uttered a peep about the controversy that is now known as “Cocoygate,” the revelation that one – or maybe two – people identified with the previous administration owns and administers all the prominent (and many of the not-so-prominent) blog sites that are shrilly critical of the Duterte administration and its supporters. But perhaps today, when the Senate committee on media headed by Senator Grace Poe starts its investigation into the matter, that will change.

The man identified as the owner and administrator of the Yellow sites Silent No More, Pinoy Ako Blog, Madame Claudia and a host of others, Edward “Cocoy” Dayao, has been invited to attend the Poe committee’s first hearing. I have no information at all if Dayao, said to be a longtime IT consultant of the Aquino administration, will put in an appearance, but I intend to watch the hearing just the same.

I want to know, first of all, if people identified with the previous government really hid behind the easy (and easily exposed) anonymity of the Internet in order to systematically destroy the Duterte administration online. I will be waiting to find out if these people, who have wantonly attacked anyone who does not agree with their obvious partisan agenda, can be punished using laws already applicable to traditional media practitioners and known social media denizens who do not hide their names and circumstances.

And beyond that, I want to see if Poe and her panel will eventually craft legislation and other measures that will make anonymous bloggers more accountable for their actions. These hearings, I think, will be the perfect opportunity to do all of that.

I have no doubt in my mind that the people want to know these things, as well. After all, when the popular blogger who exposed Cocoygate, RJ Nieto (also known as Thinking Pinoy), was the main guest on our radio show “Karambola sa DWIZ” yesterday, the online viewership on Facebook Live soared to a record high.

If the media still do not cover the Poe hearing, that will convince me that a conspiracy to bury the Cocoygate story is in the works. And mainstream media will be the real loser, if this is so.

Topics: Deputy Overall Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang , Fake news , Ricky Carandang , Ill-gotten wealth , President Rodrigo Duterte , Anti-Money Laundering Council

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