NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
An alleged unrepentant “superspreader” of lies and fake news on social media is now facing 94 counts of violation of Republic Act (RA) 10175 known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Mayor Joseph Ranola through his counsel Atty. Florendo Columnas filed before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor on February 17, 2021 a four-page complaint-affidavit alleging that Seto (Seto) Fuentes Bajamonde has been “habitually maligning, defaming and slandering my person, my profession, character, family, and even honor as a public servant in the social media.”
Cyberstalking is defined as stalking or harassment that takes place via social media and is typically planned and sustained over a period of time becoming annoying and even frightening.
Ranola endured almost 14 months of unrelenting attacks on social media since he took office on July 1, 2019, from Seto, who ran under the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas and lost in the 2019 elections for municipal councilor placing 27th among the 28 candidates.
Seto, 45 years old, single, and a resident of Barangay Alejawan, Jagna went into hiding after evading two warrants for his arrest issued by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 50, Loay, Bohol Presiding Judge Samuel A. Biliran for five counts of cyber-libel issued on May 2020 and another five counts of the same criminal offense on June 2020.
Municipal Councilor Anthony Aniscal filed 10 counts of cyber-libel against Seto who was arrested on August 11, 2020, in Barangay Villa Libertad, El Nido, Palawan in a joint operation by the intelligence units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) of Jagna and El Nido.
Seto posted a PhP350,000 bail for his temporary liberty pending resolution of his cyber-libel case filed by Aniscal.
According to the complaint-affidavit of Ranola, soon after Seto started posting in his Facebook (FB) account under the name Seto Fuentes Bajamonde “innumerable messages maligning, slandering and defaming my person, my character, profession, and administration,” soon after he received calls from friends, family members, relatives, and constituents especially Jagna-anons who have “seen, viewed, accessed and read” the defamatory and libelous posts.
Seto allegedly waged an online vilification campaign against Ranola to discredit his credential as a Master of Public Administration (MPA) taunting him – “In Jagna . . . Mr.Ranola, e-post sa Municipality of Jagna FB page imong Certificate danang MPA, transparent man kaha ka? sige bi!?”
A similar post by Seto – “In Jagna . . . Sige kag buwabuwa sa radyo pero imong MPA Mr. Ranola wa pa mi kahibaw asa gikan . . . basin PEKE na, ipakita para susihon namu!
The post, according to Ranola is a “malicious statement to challenge his being a professional and tends to cause defamation and ended in a defamatory remark to a professional person.” and the “professional attainment of the person was tainted with evident bad faith to destroy his reputation.”
These were posted on November 26, a few minutes apart at 1:07 PM and 1:12 PM.
On November 5, at 6:36 AM, Seto posted questioning the existence of the Center for National Budget (CNB) since it does not appear in Google and the “legitimacy” of the source of income of Ranola from CNB before his election as mayor of Jagna.
Ranola, before he was elected Jagna mayor, formed the CNB as a private non-stock, non-profit consultancy and advocacy organization to foster education on the Philippine national budget. It has been existing for more than twenty years with Ranola as president.
Several posts by Seto fomented hate and discredited with malice Ranola as a public servant even accusing him of setting foot at Island City Mall (ICM) in Tagbilaran City without a face mask.
The numerous and relentless attacks on the person of Ranola as a public and private citizen are “below the belt or ad hominem and not on my performance as a public servant,”
In his complaint-affidavit, Ranola stressed that the utterances of Seth on FB are “clearly an abuse of his freedom of speech and constructive criticism which should not anymore be tolerated in order to teach the public by informing and educating them.”
Ranola lamented that the use of social media especially FB has been abused resulting in irreparable damage to affected individuals even as Seto had not learned from his previous acts against Aniscal “which is the same with what he did to me.”
Ranola prayed that Seto pay damages as a result of the FB posts in whatever amount the court deems sufficient and proper together with the attorney’s fees and the cost of the suit. (Chito M. Visarra)