ABS-CBN anchor on flesh-eating disease report: No intention to sow fear

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MANILA, Philippines — ABS-CBN late-night news program “Bandila” broke its silence after its report on a supposed flesh-eating disease in Pangasinan turned out to be a hoax.

Anchor Julius Babao said late Tuesday it was not their intention to sow fear among the public when they reported that a “mysterious disease” is slowly spreading in the Ilocos region.

“It is not the program’s intention to scare the public but to report the information we gathered so that authorities would give appropriate action,” Babao said in Filipino in their follow-up report Tuesday night.

Reporter Jasmin Romero, clad in protective gear and facemask, interviewed two patients from Santa Barbara and Villasis and described them as having “decaying” (naaagnas) skin due to a “mysterious disease” (misteryosong sakit).

It turned out that the two have leprosy and severe case of psoriasis, health officials corrected Tuesday. Also, a flesh-eating disease is not mysterious, but a rare illness called necrotizing fasciitis, a serious bacterial infection that spreads rapidly and destroys the body’s soft tissue, provincial health official Anna De Guzman said.

In the original report, Babao said they would air a second part that would tackle a supposed prophecy of a flesh-eating disease spreading from Pangasinan to the world.

Their follow-up report, however, made no mention of the prophecy. It reported that the two cases interviewed in the report were not of a “mysterious disease” but of psoriasis and leprosy, quoting health officials.

The two patients are in the hospital for further treatment.

Irate netizens were particularly alarmed over the supposed connection of the patients to the prophecy.

In April 2013, a self-titled prophet Vincent Selvakumar of the Voice of Jesus Ministries predicted that a flesh-eating disease would spread from Pangasinan to the world.

De Guzman said the reporter sensationalized the news by connecting the two case studies to the supposed prophecy.

Provincial information chief Orpheus Velasco appealed to the media to stop sensationalizing stories.

“Let us not sensationalize a story that would only cause undue panic,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

ABS-CBN used the hashtag #MisteryosongSakitSaBandila in their original report. Hours after their report aired Monday night, the hashtag #PrayForPangasinan trended on Twitter, with netizens clinging to faith amid a false apocalyptic doom.

The network has put down the video of the original report from its website.

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