THE Cebu Updates Facebook page continues to criticize some Cebu City Hall officials a day after the City Government lodged formal complaints against its “operators” before the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, Cebu Updates said it would remain “vigilant” to expose the “anomalies” at City Hall.
“Karon nga gikiha mi sa Cebu City Hall, dili mi mahadlok. Mas magbantay pa mi sa ilang kaboang. #SaveCebuCity,” it said.
(Now that we have been sued by Cebu City Hall, we will not be afraid. We will be even more vigilant against their incompetence.)
The City government filed on Monday, Feb. 5, illegal access and computer-related identity charges against Erwin dela Cerna and Christian Tura for allegedly operating the Cebu Updates Facebook page.
The City Government said the investigation conducted by the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit (Racu) 7 led them to the two accused.
The City Government asserts that the Cebu Updates page is its property, having formerly served as the official Public Information Office (PIO) page of the City Government, and it seeks to regain ownership of the page.
The Racu 7, in its affidavit, said it has saved the Facebook live videos of dela Cerna and Tura to support the complaint of Cebu City PIO head Estela Grace Rosit.
In a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Michael Rama said they will go after individuals who will access the page illegally.
“I don’t want to say that their days are numbered, but we will never stop to uncover all of them,” Rama said.
In a separate interview, former city attorney and now City Budget and Finance Officer Jerone Castillo said there is a possibility of adding cyber libel to the lawsuits to be filed against individuals who are behind the Cebu Updates Facebook page.
“Lahi sad tong (cyber) libel. Lahi sad tong illegal access. Basin katong nakit-an pa sa mga lawyers kay katong duha pa. Unya at the end of the day, pwerte diayng daghana,” Castillo said.
Messages sent to dela Cerna via FB Messenger remained unanswered as of this writing. Tura has also yet to address the issue.
Dela Cerna has hosted a program called “Ratsada” on the Cebu Updates page, while Tura has posted live commentaries on City Hall issues.
SunStar Cebu tried to contact Cebu Updates, but received no response.
According to the court, the respondents are required to submit their counter-affidavits and that of their witnesses and other supporting documents for their defense within 10 days from receipt of the subpoena.
SunStar Cebu also tried to get the side of other individuals who posted live on Cebu Updates, including a certain Jun Tumulak, “Dagmasla Zeus Sebastian,” and Floro Casas Jr., who was city administrator during the time of the late mayor Edgardo Labella, but to no avail.
Pachico Seares, in his July 23, 2023 SunStar column News + One, wrote that Casas admitted that he is an administrator of the Cebu Updates page.
In the same column, Casas said Cebu Updates is a “privately created social media site that publishes official events and announcements.” The page “is, or was, not owned by the Cebu City Government.”
SunStar Cebu tried to get Casas’ comment on the cases filed against dela Cerna and Tura, but had yet to respond as of this writing.
Rosit, in her affidavit, said the Cebu Updates page has turned into a tool for propaganda, “ruthlessly manipulated” to serve the self-interests of its administrators by maligning Cebu City government officials.
The Cebu Updates Facebook page posts diverse content that can be categorized into live streaming by its “talents,” shared posts about current affairs and entertainment from credible media entities, various media service posts, announcements, and “attacks” on the current city administration.
Cebu Updates, with 242,000 likes and 339,000 followers, identifies itself as a media and news company, with an address at the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City.
However, unlike credible news organizations, the page lacks transparency regarding its ownership and management as it has not undergone Meta’s verification process.
As of Jan. 22, 2024, its page transparency section shows at least seven individuals from the Philippines managing the page.
A typical day’s content of Cebu Updates aims for readable material, with the majority of the content seeming to be reprinted rather than original.
Cebu Updates does not hide its dislike for Mayor Rama.