Top Gear sorry for identifying wrong suspect in road rage

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2016 03:13 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2016 03:44 PM

July 25, 2016 –A jostle in the road between a car driver and cyclist led to a fist fight ended into a gun shooting, leaving the cyclist dead at P. Casal Street in Quiapo, Manila. Suspect left the scene of the crime leaving the dead victim lying on the street. Nikon Celis, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The editor of Top Gear Philippines has apologized for posting on its Facebook page a link to the social media account of the wrong person being linked to a fatal road rage incident in Quiapo, Manila last Monday.

Top Gear editor Vernon Sarne took full responsibility for posting the link to the Facebook profile of Nelson Punzalan, who had been apparently falsely accused as the killer of cyclist Mark Vincent Geralde. Top Gear also posted a photo of Punzalan's car, which was coincidentally a Hyundai Eon model, similar to the car in the incident.

"I was responsible for posting the photo of Mr. Punzalan's vehicle, and I realize now that I shouldn't have done so. I accept full responsibility. This is all on me," Sarne said.

"The buck stops here. This is all my fault," he added.

Sarne said he will do his best to reach out to Punzalan and personally apologize to him and his family.

"I also apologize to the followers of this page. You deserve better from us. And we will be better because of this, I promise you. Thank you for reading," he said.

Punzalan, the owner of the red Hyundai Eon car with conduction sticker number MO-3746, on Tuesday appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti Organized and Transnational Crime Division (AOTCD) to clear his name, saying the plate number being circulated online was wrong.

Police later named Army reservist Vhon Tanto as the suspect in Geralde's killing.

WHERE TOP GEAR GOT INFO

In an article published by Top Gear early morning on Wednesday, it explained that it got the plate number from earlier news reports and only contacted Hyundai Philippines in a bid to help in identifying the owner of the car.

Hyundai Philippines however declined to provide details, Top Gear said. But a netizen told them that "he had asked a friend to cross-check the conduction sticker number reported in the news. He said Punzalan's name came up, prompting him to do a search on Facebook, where he saw Punzalan's account with a cover photo featuring the exact same vehicle and conduction sticker described in the news."

Top Gear posted a photo of the car on its own Facebook page, along with a link to Punzalan's account, which has since been deactivated.

The Top Gear article noted that when it posted the information, "nothing was 100% verified."

On Tuesday evening, Top Gear said it received a message from an individual who refused to be identified, who said that the conduction sticker number of the car involved in the shooting incident was MO-3745.

The individual claimed that the information was verified according to a witness.

Despite putting disclaimers in their Facebook posts, Top Gear was called out by several netizens for hastily linking the wrong man to the crime.