Thursday, May 16Multi-awarded Filipina blogger, ocial media specialist, publicist and content creator

Leave Dato Zainab alone

I was still at the airport yesterday when I received a phone call. Apparently, a Philippine Star columnist, Jarius Bondoc, claimed that the wife of the Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines, Dato Zainab, “sullied the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.” Jarius Bondoc claimed that Dato Zainab tweeted and called Rizal an “infidel Malay.”

My very first thought was…naw, it couldn’t be. It must be just some random, silly joke. Dato Zainab would never say such a thing. Plus, I thought, Jarius Bondoc and the Philippine Star know how to abide by basic and proper etiquette. It is only proper for a columnist to verify facts, lest he appears stupid and naive. It is only proper for a columnist to have proof. Also, doesn’t Philippine Star’s masthead say “Truth Shall Prevail“?

Unfortunately, as more updates came, I realized that it was far from just being a small misunderstanding. In just a matter of hours, that Jarius Bondoc Philippine Star column made the rounds on the Internet so fast that it was no longer funny. What made things worse is that the opposition leader in Malaysia, the controversial Anwar Ibrahim, who, lest we all forget, has an ongoing sodomy trial (the SECOND time he was accused of sodomy), as well as former Philippine President Erap Estrada, who, lest we also all forget, was OUSTED and was found guilty of plunder, both jumped the gun even without checking facts and verifying if the source of the entire thing was even true or not. Anwar Ibrahim shared the link to Jarius Bondoc’s misleading article (and of course, as a result, his supporters immediately ate it all up and started to lambast Dato Zainab) while Erap Estrada (I know, right? Of all people! *rolls eyes*) issued a statement and said that Dato Zainab was “insensitive.”

Unfortunately for Philippine Star, Jarius Bondoc, Anwar Ibrahim and Erap Estrada, the tweet they all claimed was Dato Zainab’s was NOT originally hers. In fact, the root of all this “mess” is a FAKE Twitter account named @BikMama2U (a parody Twitter account that claims to be the “Husband of the Prime Minister of Malaysia”) which apparently sent a message on Twitter which stated Anwar Ibrahim to be “pro Christian” and then called Rizal as “infidel Malay.” The tweet sent by @BikMama2U MERELY TAGGED Dato Zainab (@datozainab) and even Anwar Ibrahim himself.

Thank goodness for Twitter timelines! Here are screen shots of the real tweets:

As you guys can clearly see, Dato Zainab RETWEETED @BikMama2U ‘s message and added “Inshaallah.” Don’t you think her “Inshaallah” comment was meant to say “if God permits” or “God willing” to @BikMama2U ‘s second sentence whereby he/she said “please send my regards to Dato Ibrahim?

Ahh…tsk tsk tsk. Now that’s what’s tricky about jumping into conclusions.

Is this a potential case for libel and damage to reputation? I wonder.

So now I can’t help but ask:

Does Jarius Bondoc even understand what Twitter is and how it works? Does he have the faintest idea as to what an originally crafted tweet is and what a retweet is?

If Jarius Bondoc does not have a Twitter account, how did he manage to find that one tweet out of Dato Zainab’s thousands of tweets? Did he merely stumble upon it, did he purposely find it or was it tipped/forwarded to him? I have a guess but I want to hear your theory!

Curiously, the tweets were made mid-July but were only made “controversial” two weeks later. Was this done on purpose especially since Anwar Ibrahim is set to visit the Philippines come Friday? Is this some diversionary tactic to keep the attention of the media away from his ongoing sodomy trial? I wonder.

When will the Philippine Star, Jarius Bondoc, ousted Philippine President Erap Estrada and even Anwar Ibrahim all issue their own statements of apology?

Will the Philippine Star do something against Jarius Bondoc? After all, doesn’t the Philippine Star’s masthead say “Truth Shall Prevail”? Will they stay true to this or will they just turn a blind eye?

Will buddies Erap Estrada and Anwar Ibrahim be men enough to apologize? Will Erap Estrada and Anwar Ibrahim own up to their own mistakes and say sorry? (By the way, you know what they say about choosing friends, right? The type of company you keep reflects the person you are. Get it? Got it? Good! Connect the dots.)

Who among Jarius Bondoc, Anwar Ibrahim, Erap Estrada and all those who immediately castigated Dato Zainab without even trying to verify facts have enough intestinal fortitude to call a spade a spade?

I agree with Asian Correspondent’s Jon Russell when he said:

The whole sorry mess is a result of sloppy work from Bondoc who leapt to a sensational (and incorrect) conclusion based on a couple of tweets which he misread. The incident goes onto show the importance of fact-checking information received through social media. Not only is Bondoc at fault, however, both Ibrahim and Estrada were wrong to jump into the mess based only on Bondoc’s article. It is clear that neither of them/their teams actually looked up the original messages. Had they done so, and checked Dato Zainab’s Twitter timeline, they would have seen her comment highlighting the mistake. Both jumped into the action and acted to position themselves as the protectors of their respective countries’ reputations, but it has backfired and made both of them look very silly and naive, alongside Bondoc.

Please feel free to read and SHARE these articles:

Asian Correspondent – Twitter confusion causes diplomatic incident between Malaysia and Philippines

ABS CBN News – Malaysian envoy’s wife denies dissing Rizal

GMA News – Malaysian envoy’s wife denies tweeting Rizal’s an ‘infidel’

Philippine Daily Inquirer – Malaysian envoy’s wife disowns anti-Rizal, Anwar tweet

Just in case you’re wondering why I care about this issue — well, it’s because I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Dato Zainab, her husband and the rest of her family. Never has she — not even once — said anything bad about any Filipino, much more of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. In fact, she has often praised and honored Dr. Jose Rizal. Her husband also defended Rizal a few times before. Hence, all these allegations that put Dato Zainab in a bad light are seriously just pure bull. In the words of a Twitter friend, it’s a cheap shot. It’s a cheap shot to tarnish her name and reputation, which she has worked so hard for for so many years.

I want to tell you all about the great projects Dato Zainab has done so far and will continue to do here in the Philippines but if there’s one thing that I learned from her, it’s humility. Best to keep quiet and let others find out for themselves. Suffice it to say that Dato Zainab loves the Philippines and she has many Filipino friends. She has my support and she has the full support of a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Filipinos!

And to all of my Malaysian and Filipino readers — please, let us all refrain my jumping into conclusions. Let us not be willing victims of people whose seemingly main purpose in life is to create not only confusion but hatred, anger, pessimism and negativity as well. Verify facts. Check facts. Always have proof. Don’t just listen and believe in second hand or even third hand information. Know the truth. You owe that to yourself.

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  • Rey

    I think there should be a special law penalizing columnists and persons of national prominence who write and comment “incorrect” statements.The penalty should be Sodomy!

  • majapahitkid

    its all Anwar’s game.. trying to create a situation to his benefit! This old man needs attention fr his so-called Asean frens. If he keeps a low profile long.. he is History! He is sick!!

  • ned mohd

    Anwar is a shrewd politician. All he wants is enough controversy to ensure a good crowd when he visits and speaks. Truth is of little importance to him. He is a scavenger who feeds on controversy and cheap publicity. You are spot on… This IS a diversionary tactic to gain the attention of the media. Why else spin this ‘issue’ merely days before his visit?

    Keep it up! You have our full support!

    • I’ve learned a lot about Malaysia the past few months than I have had in my entire life. And I had the privilege of listening to various POVs from people “in the know.” I personally think I made the right choice to support Dato Zainab and her family.

      Thanks so much for the kind words and for the support!

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