MANILA, Philippines - The latest attack against presidential candidate Sen. Manny Villar floundered after an e-mail purportedly showing the senator's opulent mansion in Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States turned out to be a hoax.
The e-mail, titled "Who owns a house like this?", was sent to several e-groups and forwarded to the ABS-CBN news desk earlier this week. The e-mail was prefaced with the question: "Imagine who would have such taste and live in such opulence?" and then showed various pictures of the alleged mansion, which had lavish Victorian-style interiors.
At the end of the e-mail, the sender then identifies the owner of the mansion as Sen. Villar.
"While Filipinos starve, and die because of abject poverty and while Sen. Villar brags that he had poor beginnings and he had helped his poor countrymen over and over again... but look now.. he and his family live like this, his GREED kills his poverty stricken fellow Filipinos," the e-mail read.
A check on the Snopes.com website, which investigates urban legends and forwarded e-mail rumors, however, showed that the e-mail has been circulating as early as 2008 and that the mansion was first linked to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
A copy of the e-mail about Mugabe's mansion also had the same wording as the recent e-mail about Villar, with minor changes to make it appear that it was written for a Filipino audience.
The Snopes website said that the mansion is not in Salt Lake City but in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. It also noted that the mansion has been extensively photographed because it is sometimes used as a site for TV shows and films.
Snopes also revealed that the mansion has been linked to various personalities such as former Nigerian military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, Indian film star Shahrukh Khan, and Edir Macedo, founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
In a phone interview, Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla downplayed the latest attempt to besmirch the reputation of Villar.
"Who would want to buy a mansion in Salt Lake City? Are there papers to support it?" he said, adding that there was absolutely no truth to the rumor.
He added: "The campaign being waged by Villar's opponents reaches record lows everyday, starting with the false associations of 'Villaroyo.' It only shows that his opponents are insecure and desperate. We pray that they campaign on platforms and capabilities rather than mudslinging."
At least one of those who forwarded the e-mail about Villar has apologized. Domingo Guevara Jr. of the Guevara Group of Companies apologized to the Villar camp for forwarding the bogus e-mail to his contacts. He said he issued his apology "not because I support Villar but I wish to be fair to all concerned."
Mudslinging against Villar
The e-mail hoax is the latest in a series of attempts to spread black propaganda against the Nacionalista Party standard-bearer.
Earlier this month, an e-mail sent to news organizations by a certain [email protected] said Villar would allegedly hold a press conference at the NP headquarters in Mandaluyong City.
The e-mail sender said Villar will talk about his campaign expenses and even hinted at an alleged romantic relationship between him and his vice presidential candidate, Loren Legarda.
The e-mail then ends with a note that journalists covering the event should go to NP Senator “Allan Cayetano” to get their envelopes.” It then lists the amounts to be received by the reporters, which range from P1,000-P3,000, depending on the media organizations they represent. (Read: Anti-Villar camp tries false media advisory) -- David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com