Possible Legal Implications Of Sam's Morales' Alleged Catfish Issue, According To A Law Professor

Sadly, there's no law against catfishing in the Philippines.
IMAGE pexels.com

The internet scandal du jour is a doozy. If you’ve been spending way too much time on the internet (as many of us are during this lockdown), you’ve probably already heard about how a woman in the local creatives industry supposedly gets her kicks out of tricking trans women into getting into a relationship with a fairly good-looking guy and then ghosting them later on.

You might think that’s pretty harmless (especially if you've been watching reality show The Circle), but not if you’ve read the long, sordid Twitter thread of user @JzanVern, the first complainant to come forward to expose the misdeeds of the alleged perpetrator, whom she identified as Sam Morales.

We say the first because since Monday night, when the Twitter thread raced through the interwebz to compete for attention against other news of the day (like presidential addresses and updates on COVID-19), other individuals have come forward saying that they, too, have been victimized by this Morales’ M.O.


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According to @Jzanvern, Morales accomplishes her dastardly acts by coercing a supposed accomplice, a man later identified as Bilko Argana, into initial contact with the target, often through a dating app like Tinder. Morales could do this because the guy is supposedly a model who would ostensibly lose his job if he didn't do Morales’ bidding.


But—and we totally get it if you already knew where this was going—Morales had been steering this ship since before it left port. Apparently, she was the one communicating with the target, essentially assuming the identity of the guy. And it wasn’t just her. According to @Jzanmern, it was “Morales, another girl, and one of her guy friends.”

In the case of @Jzanvern, that communication was near-constant (we’re talking daily) and allegedly even extended to helping the victim out with her work as a graphic designer as well as promises to meet in person that would eventually fizzle out and not happen at the last minute. @Jzanvern said the charade went on for about eight months.

One case is tragic but, as of Tuesday afternoon, at least six other people have confirmed that Morales had done almost the exact same thing to them, too.

Morales’ alleged actions are disturbing and despicable, sure, but the question is, are they criminal?


Is Morales criminally liable?

To find out, Esquire Philippines asked Prof. JJ Disini, managing partner of the Disini Law Office. He is an associate professor and head of technology law and public policy at the U.P. College of Law.

“From the standpoint of the model, that can qualify as computer identity theft,” Atty. Disini says. “He can say he was blackmailed (into doing those things).”

As for the alleged victims and chief complainants, Atty. Disini agrees that there is no provision in Republic Act 10175, or the Cyber Crime Preventgion Act of 20120, that covers catfishing, or the act of creating a fake persona on the internet to target someone for abuse, deception, or fraud.

However, Atty. Disini does point to RA 11313 or the so-called Safe Spaces Law.

“It’s essentially gender-based sexual harassment likely to cause mental, emotional and psychological distress,” he says.

Article 2, Section 12 of RA 11313 states:

Gender-based online sexual harassment includes acts that use information and communications technology in terrorizing and intimidating victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, unwanted misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist remarks and comments online whether publicly or through direct or private messages, invasion of victim’s privacy through cyberstalking, and incessant messaging, uploading and sharing without the consent of the victim, any form of media that contains photos, voice or video with sexual content, any unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim’s photos, videos or any information online, impersonating identities of victims of online or posting lies about victims to harm their reputation or filing false abuse reports to online platforms to silence victims.


The penalty for offenses under this law is prison correccional (six months to six years) or a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than 500,000, or both.

In this case, Atty. Disini says all the alleged victims can come forward and file a complaint if they so choose and present evidence to the satisfaction of the prosecutor.

According to @Jzanvern, when she asked Morales why she did it, she said it was because of childhood trauma. “It started when she was young,” Jzanvern said. “She was bullied by gay people all the time. That’s where her hatred towards the gays started.”

Could Morales theoretically use that as an excuse for her allegedly doing what she did?

“The danger of taking that defense is, in effect, she is admitting to everything,” according to Atty. Disini. “The bottom line is, even though she may have been working under this trauma, she would still need to prove that she lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and the fact that she can articulate this, that means she knew what she was doing. She needs to prove the extent of the trauma and that would be an uphill battle.

“That, to me sounds like a dangerous defense,” he adds. “Given that at this point, they don’t know all the evidence. Right now, she’s suffering from the social consequences. No, it’s not necessarily the best place to do it, but at this time, it’s all playing out there, on social media.”


Time will tell how this whole affair will end.

This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Candymag.com editors.









About the author
Paul John Caña for Esquiremag.ph

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I was, but I am not. Desperately, I am trying to reach you – my hope. I am in this particular space in my own constructed world where doubts and frustrations recur. Emphasizing how scared I am being here, I never explored this area before. I was always in those places filled with benevolence, hope shining like the light the sun and the moon possess. And I didn’t have any plans to visit a ‘dark’ place, as how I described it then. But, as funny as how my world suddenly flipped, I am now here, completely lost with monsters persuading me to go insane.

How did I end up here? I can’t logically tell you the answer for that, but I guess, I know when. It started when I had to consider what college course do I want to pursue. Well, if you want to ask what ambition had occurred in my mind when I was young – which is usually the case in terms of life when you were like 7-year-old young - it was definitely being a doctor. I’d thought about wearing a medical coat with a stethoscope around my neck, ready to cure people from their illnesses. It was actually stuck in my mind for so long I almost thought that I was sure of it, yet, as a particular song yields, almost was never really enough and still, it is and will never be.

When I realized that such a perspective was slowly draining me, I tried my best to stand tough. I convinced myself that this was just temporary, that I could think of a way out of this. “There’s still plenty of time,” I once convinced myself. However, my environment demonstrated the contrary: I felt like I was completely out of time.

I was there when my classmates were happily talking about that ‘dream course’ they wish to take in their ‘dream university.’ I was there when my family was suggesting the thought of using my ‘suitable’ speaking voice for broadcasting and voice acting purposes. I was there when my teacher was convincing me that Education suited me the best. That ‘Stand tough!’ aura I used to own back then, suddenly transformed into ‘I give up!’ state, slowly destroying my being. And now, I am here in this space where doubts and frustrations are filling my former enthusiastic self. I need help.

I know, at this point, some of you may never consider me ‘fatal’ because, as you’re reading this, you may judge that I still have the ability to transform my thoughts into words that can be read, so that ‘automatically’ falls into the aspect of complete sanity. No, because I will never tell everything to you in the first place if I still have the urge to stand like I used to, relative to my belief that speaking up through writing is the best way to attract help.

When you look at the photo of mine above, you may say that I was okay. That I was successful. That I was never losing myself. Yes, I was. But, think about what happened days after that was taken and the message of this passage you started reading minutes before, do you think I am still the same girl smiling in the photo? I hope I will be or better yet, improve if the world will permit me. But, now I’m sure – I’m not the same.


This blog is dedicated to all teens out there struggling in determining what they really want in their life or if you simply want a glow up. And since were still facing a pandemic, I think this is also a season where everyone is re-thinking about their lives. So, I hope these advices might help you.

Tip #1. TAKE RISK - since most of you are still young, I advice you to take your biggest risk. Whether it may be taking the course you want, a skill you want to acquire or just simply taking the risk to throw away your emotional baggage from your childhood. While you're still young, you have very little to lose. You dont have that much commitments and responsibilities. Because the older you get, the more responsibilities and obligations came. So when they are still not piling up, take the risk! As for me, the biggest risk I took when I was still a teenager is to CUT OFF TOXIC FAMILY TIES.

I may sound rude here but, yeah. I decided to throw away my emotional baggage from my traumatic childhood and cut off some of my family ties and it is completely okay! You dont have to be bothered by whatever they will say. Because at your age, you are already investing on your growth as a person. If you really want to grow, THERE IS NO PERFECT TIME FOR YOU TO TAKE RISK BUT NOW. Because in taking risk you are actually giving yourself a reward of getting something amazing or beyond what you expect you can have. As they say, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Keep in mind that the bigger the risk, the bigger possibility of FAILURE. But that is completely OKAY. Because just like what I said earlier, you are still young. You dont have so much to lose so, dont be afraid to take the risk and then fail. But after failing, learn from it and the more courage you have to take risk the greater the learning, reward or happiness. Ito na nga, how to take risk nga ba? And what are the risk that would actually help me to grow? #

2: VOICE LESSON - dont get me wrong, hindi ito vocalization para sa pagkanta. What I mean is, learn to listen to that VOICE INSIDE YOU. Listen to your heart, to your intuition and to your visions because it will be your GUIDE. Because I realize that as you go along your journey of your life and if you really want to be YOURSELF and be successful in achieving your goals, the only GUIDE that you should follow is your OWN VOICE.

It is okay to take and consider other people's advices but at the end of the day,you should never forget to listen to your own voice. Because that voice is what tells you what you truly want. How would you know that if it is your 'own' voice? Your own voice always comes from your HEART. The voice where YOU and GOD'S voice are one. Because I firmly believe that God knows your heart and that is where he reside. I like journaling because whenever I journal my thought every night and every morning, I feel a dual voice inside my head. Like, it contradicts what the other voice is telling. For example: If we have dreams or goals that puts us so much weight and pressure to the point that it makes you exhausted, STOP. Because it might be a dream or goal of someone else. I believe that your own dreams and goals may be frustrating most of the time, but that frustration has fueling feeling that will always tell you that 'This is the hard way to better so keep going'. Frustration in your own dreams will not make you feel exhausted because achieving a dream itself is a fulfilling feeling.

#3. TAKE ACTION - if you really want something to happen, take action. Dont just sit there and wait things to come your way. Make action or decisions that will take you to where you want to go in your life. Just like what I said in one of my novels that I am writing in wattpad, "There is no such thing as destiny or fate. Because YOU make your OWN life choices." For example, I cannot expect to be a published author if I dont write any novels right? The bottomline here is, if you are not moving forward you are actually moving backward. And it is a sad thing. Life is full of situations where you will be put in the line whether you take courage or just stay where you are. Because GROWING needs consistency in moving forward. So if you dont have to enough courage to take action, your life will always stay the same or worse you will continuously shrink down.

#4. EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS - this means stretching your comfort zone. I watched an anime entitled "Black Clover" there is a captain there where he always tell his subordinates to surpass their limits right, here right now. Going out of our comfort zones are surely scary and uncomfortable. But you have to accept the fact that you cannot stay on the coast forever. You have to change, because the only thing that is constant in this world is change right? Go out of your comfort zones because LIMITS are just in the MIND. There are disabled people who are successful in their own careers. Because the lesson here is, if you hold back there will be no growth. Because GROWTH blooms in DISCOMFORT.

Last, #5. INVEST IN YOURSELF - especially now that you are still young, you should focus on investing on yourself more. Time is your bestfriend at this point of your life. You have so much time to discover things about yourself. I never regret buying and reading books that I never knew will help me later on in dealing life's challenges. You can use that time to read books, gain wisdom, or pick a new skill, improve your talent and learn from your experiences. Keep learning outside your home or your school. Because the real battlefield is OUTSIDE. What you learn in school will only help you in your career but your wisdom and experiences will help you in life or as a person. People who doesnt embrace growth will never succeed in their life. (This is a reflection blog from my 21st birthday last week. I hope you can feature this on your page and I hope it can help others as well. )

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