By Jeffrey Damicog
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chairman and human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno has been given until April 14 by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to respond to allegations that his client has been spreading fake news concerning the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
NBI Cybercrime Division (NBI-CCD) chief Victor Lorenzo said that Diokno appeared on behalf of his client who was issued a subpoena to appear before the NBI-CCD on Tuesday, April 7.
“Sabi namananila magsu-submit sila ng formal reply (They said they would submit a formal reply,” Lorenzo recounted.
“We said they should submit the reply by Tuesday next week,” he said.
During the meeting with investigators, Lorenzo recalled that Diokno sought for an explanation from NBI investigators of the nature of the offense committed by his client.
“Kailangan rin nila pag-aralan point by point yung mga issues na nire-raise namin dun sa client nila (They have to study point by point the issues raised against his client),” the NBI official noted.
Diokno earlier said he decided to provide legal assistance to his client as it seemed that the NBI has been running after ordinary netizens to silence critics of the current administration.
“Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain (Many people are dying including frontliners but instead of fighting the virus they are running after critics),” the lawyer lamented.
Lorenzo earlier explained, however, that Diokno’s client is being investigated for posting on social media allegations that the government bought an airplane worth P2 billion instead of using the money for public health care amid the growing threat of COVID-19.
“So dalawa ang personality ng kliyente niya, either he is an author of fake news or a whistleblower (Diokno’s client has two personalities, he is either an author of fake news or a whistleblower),” the NBI official pointed out.
If there is truth in his accusations, Lorenzo said the NBI wants that information so that graft charges could be filed against the government officials involved in the purchase of the plane.
“So we want that information na ma-provide nya sa amin (to be provided to us),” he said.
Otherwise, Lorenzo warned that the person should be held liable for making and propagating fake news.