Baguio has not gone to the dogs, mayor and police insist

Contributor

Frank Cimatu

A NAKED corpse dumped outside a house in Tabora St. sparked a series of social media posts that had Baguio trending last Tuesday. 

Twitter recorded 4,000 tweets about Baguio on Tuesday night. It climbed to 6,000 on Wednesday before it tapered off. 

A video report from one local media outfit garnered 5,600 shares. A radio report had more but it was asked by local officials to bring it down until it “cleans” up the accompanying picture. 

Baguio Chronicle’s post got one million hits despite not carrying the picture first freely shown on social media. 

Police said that the body belonged to a 22-year-old woman originally from Central Luzon. Her hands and mouth were tied with duct tape while a belt was wound on her neck. 

After somebody called the police about the body openly found in the yard of a residence in A. Tabora St., the police came to retrieve the body. 

Someone, however, took photos before the body was taken out and posted it on Facebook. It got 5,000 shares. 

A photo of a tattoo with a name was later spread online which again set the social media reeling. It was reported that her twin sister was able to identify the body. 

Police belied reports that the woman was sexually molested. In a report made last Friday, the initial investigation showed that the woman died of asphyxiation caused by the belt tightened around her neck. The police said there was no sexual foul play. 

Police Lt. Col. John Cayat Jr., Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Deputy City Director, said that this is an isolated case and said that Baguio is not as violent as pictured. 

Subsequent FB posts, however, showed a video of someone firing a gun in front of a popular country western bar. 

Another showed apparent gang violence in front of a university gate. Someone lumped the three videos together and posted the question: What is happening to Baguio?

The police said that the shooting occurred in the early morning of August 30. 

“The incident, circulating on social media, was a heated argument between two parties, which resulted in a commotion, mauling, and the intervention of an unidentified person who allegedly fired his gun into the air,” BCPO said. 

“Moreover, the unidentified person who fired his gun fled the scene, and investigators were unable to recover any firearm cartridge at the place of the incident, while all individuals involved were brought to the Baguio City Police Station 2 for a thorough investigation and medical examination. An investigation is still underway to identify the person who allegedly fired his gun into the air.”

Cayat said that the public must also refrain from sharing unverified reports and insinuations on social media to avoid sowing fear among the residents and tourists about the real situation in the city.

There was an earlier report about a kidnapping in Trancoville, which is adjacent to A. Tabora St. 

The police said that there was no such kidnapping and again requested people from giving the idea of a conspiracy on that matter. 

Cayat explained that in the case of reported missing persons, there is no truth to the reports because those individuals who were earlier reported to have gone missing have already returned home to their families.

According to him, the public should avoid sharing speculations on social media because it adds up to the confusion of the people instead of helping clarify that said missing individuals have rejoined their families.

The Baguio Chronicle made a fact check on the kidnapping in Trancoville and found it to be false. 

Mayor Magalong asked residents to stop sharing socmed posts that are “insensitive, distasteful or containing false information.”

“Our moral principles have taught us to respect the dead, to protect human dignity even in death so please stop this abominable act,” the mayor said.

He warned those who will continue to spread these sensitive photos of legal repercussions.

The City Legal Office said the act may constitute a violation of Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code which deals with “immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions” and penalized with prison terms or a fine of up to P2,000. 

The Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit Cordillera said those who share photos of naked persons without covering their private parts are liable for the violation of the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009.

“Rumors of syndicates in vans roaming the city allegedly kidnapping persons for prostitution or organ harvesting have remained as such, rumors, as there have been no such incidents reported to our city police that corroborate the claim,” Magalong said. 

The Kordilyera Media-Citizens Council also made a statement, particularly to the media. This is part of their appeal”

It is unfortunate that some local media outfits and netizens hastily released photos of the woman, naked as found, which quickly spread on social media.

The Kordilyera Media-Citizen Council is highly disturbed by this as it violates the dignity of the victim.

While we acknowledge the desire of the netizens to inform the public of the incident, we find the manner of disseminating the information disgusting as it is devoid of sensitivity. Even in death, human dignity must be preserved.

It is part of journalism ethics not to reveal the identity of victims of violence – especially women and children – either by names or photos, more so with sensitive details.

We laud media organizations that reported about the crime without failing to observe the ethical standards in reporting and the basic principles of journalism – humanity and decency.

At the same time, we call on other media organizations to observe prudence and sensitivity in reporting and avoid sharing information unless verified and confirmed by authorities. 

As police investigation is ongoing, we appeal to the public to:

1. Respect the dignity of the woman-victim and not add to the trauma of the incident by spreading sensitive photos and speculations. Let us observe decency and be sensible enough when sharing information and visuals that disturb our sensibilities.

2. Treat victims, especially women and children, with respect. In this case, the posting and sharing of the victim’s naked photo has aggravated the suffering of the victim’s family as it stripped the body of the human dignity and respect it deserves.

3. Do not share information that is speculative. It causes public anxiety and panic.

We appeal to all for compassion for victims of violence by respecting their dignity, even in death.

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