Seares: FB page Cebu Updates was 'hijacked,' says ex-city administrator Villarete. Whose fault? The LGU's. 'Intrusion,' using 'city property' for attacks, angers Mayor Rama.

CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama in a press conference on February 6, 2024.
CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama in a press conference on February 6, 2024.Screenshot from Cebu City PIO video

[] Fact #1: Facebook page that's now "Cebu Updates" was originally registered and bore domain name Cebu City Public Information Office.

[] Fact #2: Name was changed twice, before the old page, without being turned over to City Government, was changed to "Cebu Updates."

Fault, omission long laid at City Hall door

As early as when Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama announced last year -- through his top trusted lieutenants (Attys. Collin Rosell and Jerone Castillo) -- to go after the Facebook page "Cebu Updates," the mistake of not having kept City Hall control over the digital asset was already clear.

It was City Hall's fault or omission, more specifically the agency that oversaw it, namely, the Public Information Office, known for short as P.I.O. Max Limpag, in his MyCebu article on the "Cebu Updates" case, said the turnover of FB credentials should've been required.

RELATED: "Seares: Cebu City Hall goes after 'usurpation' of FB page, not against its content." SunStar, Feb. 06, 2024

After then mayor Edgardo Labella died, his successor Mike Rama's P.I.O. created another FB page called "Barug Sugbo TV" without taking control of its old (14 years this May 3, 2024) "Cebu City Public Information" or shuttering it.

The page administrators apparently weren't required to turn it over, used it for their own purpose and interest, later (on January 5, 2022), as it intensified its attacks on the Rama administration, renamed it "Cebu Updates."

Villarete calls it hijacking, suggesting unlawful seizure

News about the complaint of illegal access and identity theft filed Monday, February 5, 2024 by acting P.I.O. Jing Kee Rosit with the city prosecutor's office against operators of "Cebu Updates" must have prompted Freeman columnist and former city administrator Nigel Paul Villarete to call the seizure of the FB page as a "hijacking."

Villarete said "Cebu Updates" was "pirated and used for anti-administration soc-med attacks," blaming the LGU's "loose control of its official online web address."

"Hijacking" or "pirating" suggests unlawfulness, which the FB page's operators deny and the lawsuit may determine.

Not just loose control; City also didn't use official address

The National Government, Villarete would remind local officials, allotted a website address for Cebu City: and all City Hall departments and offices should have used that address.

The P.I.O. though "made their own and used their own," which would've been "OK," he told me Wednesday, February 7, "if it was properly turned over but it was not." Worse, the site was used against Hall, "which is what's happening now."

Before he left City Hall, when then mayor Tomas Osme a's 2016 term ended on June 30, 2019, Villarete as city administrator prepared a memorandum order that would've "migrated" all City Hall/City Government websites to the domain -- something like That would've made the addresses "uniform and official" and "cannot be hijacked." A twin move was to provide official e-mail addresses for government officials ending with Villarete accomplished the e-mail addresses, not the one for websites.

'Cebu Updates' would have still carried P.I.O. name...

Had the memo been issued and implemented, Villarete said, "Cebu Updates" now would've been or

Failure to turn over FB credentials rankles more

The Villarete memo on internet address of City Hall departments might have prevented the "hijacking" he talks about but what's apparent and appalling to top officials is that a digital asset previously controlled by the City Government is being used to throw crap at its face.

"Cebu Updates" is using "public good" as its motive for the criticisms against City Hall but it is unavoidably tainted with its stance that's linked to a Rama rival's plan to run for mayor in May 2025. And it's using that armor supposedly against harassment and suppression of its posts against the Rama government.

What must hurt more to Mayor Rama is that City Hall equipment is being used to attack his administration. With the Cebuano-Bisaya idiom "Gigisa sa kaugalingong mantika (fried by one's own lard)," criticisms from the platform the City once controlled -- and believes is still its property -- would cut a deeper wound.

FB has its rules on ownership disputes

The complaint against the "Cebu Updates" administrators would seek to determine criminal liability, which rests on the question of ownership of the FB page. Who's the actual owner of the page now, which is the person who registered the domain name? The P.I.O. could be suing just the administrators, the persons given the permission to manage the page.

The complainant and the city lawyers may well remember that ownership of the page is primarily adjudicated under FB rules. Has the P.I.O. sought remedy under FB's regulations? Given the FB rules, did the City lose control and ownership already?

The alleged "hijacking" and "piracy" could already be complete and all the City could do is to try to criminally sanction the alleged offenders.


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