Bzzzzz: A whodunit: Who drove hundreds of seniors to Cebu City Hall for unscheduled cash aid?

CEBU City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. publicly raised the question Thursday, June 11, as to who most likely could be held criminally and administratively liable for gathering hundreds of elderly persons at City Hall the day before (Wednesday, June 10), which put them at risk of coronavirus infection.

Take your pick, Casas said:

(1) the city mayor and other officials who, pitying the seniors, approved the cash distribution although it was not scheduled;

(2) or some people who "instigated" the beneficiaries to rush to City Hall by spreading a false deadline for the cut-off of release, setting off the deluge of people who didn't want to miss the supposed deadline.

What is clear: Wednesday, June 10, was not scheduled as day for distributing cash aid and June 15 was not set as the last day. Because of the massive number of elderly persons who flocked to City Hall, with physical distancing and other health rules disregarded, the city officials decided to begin the cash release.

Possible 'suspects'

Atty. Casas did not make a direct accusation and instead he asked the reader to choose between two groups of persons: the city officials and the "instigators."

Casas did not name names but he posted on Facebook screen-grabbed post of Sisinio Andales (with Divino Czar A. Andales), which featured photos of the crowd and asked if it was not a mass gathering and a violation of quarantine protocol. "Will the mayor be liable administratively criminally?" the post asked.

A separate comment of Sisinio Andales (presumably the former city councilor belonging to minority BOPK) -- also reproduced by Casas with a red border -- said there was still time, until June 15, 2020, for one Angie Pulvera to check with Osca (the senior citizens office) who had said, also on FB, that he didn't know there was already cash distribution and he was in the province and couldn't get a ride to the city.

Investigate, says mayor

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, in a lift-out quote published by the city P.I.O. Thursday, June 11, said he has directed the City Legal Office and the PNP "to investigate who spread the message that senior citizens should go to City Hall to get their financial assistance." He said it is a violation of the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act: spreading false information that can cause commotion. (May be dubious basis for a lawsuit but there's still the Revised Penal Code provision on unlawful utterances.)

First, identify the person or persons responsible. The culprits must have left some trail in social media or in print or broadcast publications. City Hall was able to catch and prosecute Bambi Beltran, that businesswoman who allegedly spread false news about the Covid-19 outbreak in Sitio Zapatera (which she merely echoed from a DOH official's statement headlined on Page 1 of a newspaper). Culprits in this one, which actually prejudiced a lot of people, may be more difficult to track down but it can be done.


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