By Rommel F. Lopez

Vice President Leni Robredo belied Tuesday social media posts saying  her office distributed spoiled food to medical workers of a Quezon City hospital and promised that she’ll go after social media users who spread the false story.

Robredo shared on her Facebook account several screenshots of the Facebook and Twitter posts saying that her office sent rotten food to the Diliman Doctors Hospital.

The posts alleged that, Atty. Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson “went to the hospital the next day to apologize and instructed hospital personnel to keep quiet” and supposedly “to give financial aid to frontliners who got food poisoned from the food sent by Leni Robredo.”  The hospital’s director allegedly “refused to meet” Robredo who allegedly went to the hospital to the next day.

“This has never happened. I never went to this hospital,” said Robredo. She said her spokesperson also “never visited any hospital” when the coronavirus lockdown started in March and did not call the Diliman Doctors Hospital.

The Vice President said the Facebook user who made post “is trying to skip liability with his ‘confirm, if possible’ line.”

“If there was no malice, you should have checked first before posting. You should know that posting fake news makes you criminally liable,” she stressed.

Gutierrez also denied the allegation that he went to the hospital saying he has never went to any hospital since the lockdown.  He also promised to go after those who made and shared the post.

The Diliman Doctors Hospital reacted to the post saying that they have received food donations from the Office of the Vice President on “three occasions” but “none of which have been found to be spoiled.  They also denied Atty. Gutierrez or any representative from Robredo’s office visiting the hospital and offering any monetary payoff in exchange of keeping silent about the incident.

Contrary to the post saying the hospital director refused to meet Robredo, the hospital said that if the Vice President did indeed visit them, they would consider it an “honor”.

“It could have been an honor to see the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, Honorable Leni Robredo, visiting our hospital in this COVID pandemic,” the statement read.

Ace Encarnacion, a dietitian of the DDH, “assured” the readers of his tweet that the alleged spoiled food was nothing but “fake news” adding that all food donations to the hospital pass through his department before they are distributed to employees.

This is not the first time the Vice President’s relief efforts were subjected to online misinformation from her detractors, mostly supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Back in January after the eruption of Taal Volcano, Artanacla Oallop claimed that Robredo distributed only five pieces of “pan de sal” (Filipino breakfast rolls) and one bottled water for survivors of the eruption who were temporarily seeking shelter in evacuation centers..

Oallop’s comment read: “Salamat Robredo sa limang pirasong pandesal at isang boteng tubig. Daang libo gastos mo para sa mga kasama mong bodyguard at media tapos magdodonate ka halagang 30 pesos, asan ang daang daang milyon na pondo ng opisina mo hinayupak ka.”

Oallop’s comment was spread by rabidly pro-Duterte website and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration deputy executive director Mocha Uson’s Facebook page MOCHA USON BLOG.  Mindanation made it into an article titled “Netizen hits Robredo for spending more money on media coverage than Taal relief goods.”

Uson, shared the article on her Facebook page captioning it: “Hindi nakapagtataka na galit na ang mga tao sa mga istilong bulok na ganito. Hindi din kasi ito ang unang pagkakataong inuna ni Leni ang pagpapa photo ops kaysa sa pagtulong sa mga biktima ng trahedya (Admin MV).”

However, what Robredo’s office distributed were relief packs that contained rice, canned goods, noodles, and bottled water.

Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste who went with Robredo on January 14, to different towns in Batangas for the the vice president’s relief operations debunked the “pan de sal” comment which has since became viral among pro-Duterte social media groups.

“I don’t know if there were pan de sal. But I am sure there were (goods with) hard case – could be canned goods or tetra packs, I’m not entirely sure.” Leviste told news site Rappler in a phone interview.

He said that he helped in distributing each pack of goods that contained groceries, rice, a large bottle of water, and an N95 face mask.

Back in April, Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Manuelito Luna’s said that the Vice President should be investigated for “undermining” the Duterte administration’s anti-COVID-19 measures.

In a televised speech late night of April 3, President Rodrigo Duterte commended Robredo’s relief efforts for Filipinos in need of help amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Si Leni was calling the private sector, na magtulong, humingi ng tulong. Tama ‘yan. Maghingi ka sa kapwa mong tao ng tulong,” said Duterte.

During that same speech, Duterte fired Luna.

After the “spoiled food” posts, however, the vice president said she has had enough.

Robredo in the same post denouncing the “spoiled food” post asked those reading her Facebook post to report social media users who re-posted the fake news in any social media platform and to provide in the comments section of her post screenshots of those who posted and shared the allegation.

“We will go after all of them… We will no longer tolerate any of these,” she said.

The Office of the Vice President earlier they had raised almost P60 million for aid to those affected by the pandemic response, including dormitories, safety gear and free shuttle rides for health workers; food and personal care packs for frontliners; andextraction and test kits.