Police filed charges against the Mazda driver, which demolish initial theory of the crime and belied social media posts about the vehicle being from the mayor’s convoy.
 Case shows anatomy of a wild rumor growing into a serious allegation of abuse of power and authority.
LESS than a week after a gray Mazda struck Jeslar Uriel Larumbe, 23, who was riding on a motorcycle on Queen’s Road, near the Redemptorist Church in Bry. Kamputhaw, police filed
criminal charges against one Aaron Karl Tan, suspected driver of the sports utility vehicle (SUV). A hold-departure order was also requested through national government agencies.
Police confirmed a road-rage incident, in which the Mazda driver, Tan, allegedly overtook and blocked the victim’s motorcycle, causing Larumbe to lose control and fall, his head crashing on Tan’s SUV.
The incident happened February 4 (2024), on a Sunday morning. News of the filing of charges was reported Friday afternoon, February 9. Thus demolishing a number of false speculations about the crime, which support the theory of a cover-up pulled by the highest office in the city, the office of Mayor Michael Rama.
THE MOTHER THEORY: An SUV from the convoy of Mayor Rama was the killer car. The vehicle had its siren blaring and blinkers on, ostensibly in the mayor’s SUV driven by a person in City Hall payroll, chased basketball player Larumbe on his motorcycle.
A “massive cover-up” followed, the theory goes, to hide from the public the link between the crime and tragedy, with all its prospects of a bad press, to the mayor and his entourage.
Further the theory went, feeding mainly on a post by a Facebook page called “El Filibusterismo,” which made a direct accusation and criticism that implied it had personal knowledge or evidence to support what it published.
Soon, fueling the suspicion was the fact that police were perceived to be “slow” in locating the SUV and tracing its ownership. The criticism: So many CCTV cameras all over the area and yet they couldn’t immediately identify the vehicle owner. They must be covering up the embarrassment, if not accountability, of a “super VIP.”
NO VERIFICATION, apparently none was made. And the people publishing on the FB page -- with the “disruptive and subversive” spirit underlying the name “El Filibusterismo” -- didn’t just go on limb; it jumped off.
The line quoted in news media sounded like the page administrators were sure about the happening, knew about it personally, or had evidence to support the accusation. It said: “Pagkawalay batasan ning Mayor Mike Rama, gibiyaan ra ang naligsan sa convoy.”
That assumed Mayor Rama was the driver of the killer SUV or ordered its driver to leave the scene of the crime. Worse, it assumed that the mayor was indeed involved in the incident. An accusation that weighed more heavily because of the criticism in the news: “Pagkawalay batasan ning Mayor Mike Rama…”
WOULD YOU EXPECT AN FB PAGE to use the tools of journalism -- accuracy, fairness, balance, separating news from opinion -- in anything that it prints? You might hope but as one blogger protested when accused of riding roughshod on people’s reputation and honor, “I am not a journalist.”
Unfortunately for anyone who writes on or runs a page on social media, the law on cyberlibel does not distinguish if the offender is schooled or trained in journalism or whether one had an editor who reviewed the material before posting. The law exacts the same sense of obligation from users of the printed word in digital media. The same cyber-libel law applies to all.
IS MAYOR MIKE BEING ONION-SKINNED? The mayor repeated last Wednesday, February 7 he’d file charges against those who said he was involved in the road-rage killing. Two days later, before the weekend, he publicized once more on City Hall radio his threat.
He said he had discussed the case with a law firm and his legal counsel. Later the usual “battery of lawyers” would seem to include City Hall’s army of lawyers, his lawyer son and himself, also a lawyer. (Wouldn’t it take only as many lawyers, one or two, to prosecute a hit-and-run driver as it would take electricians to fix an electric breaker or replace a bulb?)
Earlier, last Monday, February 5, the city’s public information officer filed a criminal complaint with the city prosecutor against two administrators of “Cebu Updates,” alleging illegal access to and identity theft of the FB page the City used to own. The page has been used allegedly to attack the Rama administration.
The Rama moves drew criticism of the mayor being onion-skinned, unwilling to answer ”legitimate” questions about his governance. There is some basis to that just as there is some basis to the charges the mayor filed on the “Cebu Updates” case and said will file on the “El Filibusterismo” case.
A common circumstance in the two cases is that there seems to be ground for resorting to a lawsuit. The PIO is duty-bound to protect city government property. The mayor has the right to protect his honor and reputation when the criticism against him is provably false. The first involves an asset or property of government, for which its officials were already criticized for negligent handling. The second involves an accusation of murder against the chief executive.
THE PUBLIC WOULDN’T WANT AN AVENGING MAYOR who’d use his sword against every social media user whom he sees as wrongly or unfairly accusing him of wrongdoing. The mayor’s almost total condemnation of social media amid his clash with two FB pages could be an over-reach since not everyone in there was being “evil” and “demon(ic).”
Not many FB users may be well-intentioned, true. Some administrators and owners who have personal or political interests may just want to increase their group’s chance of wresting City Hall from current power-holders. Just as the mayor himself may be mending fences and readying his force for the 2025 election as the enemy masses at the gates.
But what may be diverted or obscured in current moves and countermoves are important issues that relate to the well-being of taxpayers, such as whether their money is wisely spent and how much of it is lost to corruption or negligence.