The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday said it has sued 24 persons for allegedly spreading false reports and information on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa said they have so far uncovered 20 incidents of spreading fake news since the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon took effect on March 17.
He said five suspected authors of fake news have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news on social media portals that have caused panic among the people.
“They are among 24 persons named respondents in 32 complaints filed for an inquest or preliminary investigation for violations of the law on Unlawful Use of Means of Publication and Unlawful Utterances under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code as Amended in relation to Sec 4c4 (Online Libel) and Section 6 of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Anti-Cybercrime Law,” Gamboa said in a statement sent to reporters.
He also said that a case build-up is underway against the authors of the most recent fake news item on Facebook that reported the purported police raid at The Medical City where some pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) were allegedly confiscated.
The hospital management quickly debunked this report that was circulated in the private chat group Chevening Alumni-Ph.
He reiterated that disinformation does not help in the battle against Covid-19.
“In this advance age of digital information, we must exercise discernment to analyze every bit of news through a quick test of the reliability of source and reliability of the information. Fake news deserves to be ignored and not passed on to others,” he said.
Violators face imprisonment of one to six months and a fine ranging from PHP40,000 to PHP200,000. They could also be punished under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
They can also be held liable for violating Presidential Decree No. 90, which declares Unlawful Rumor-Mongering and Spreading False Information, which may cause or tend to cause panic, divisive effects among the people, and undermine the stability of the government.
The PNP has earlier formed a task force against fake news online on Covid-19 which aims to run after fake news peddlers.
Gamboa said when still in doubt, the most prudent thing to do is to validate the information through official government sources.
The Joint Task Force Covid Shield can be reached through the following hotlines: 09175382495-GLOBE 09988490013-SMART 02 87253176-LANDLINE or may email at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Gamboa said ensuring a stable supply of basic necessities is among the priorities in addressing the public health emergency.
“We are assured of enough food and water to see us through this ordeal. The challenge, under ECQ conditions, is to ensure the steady flow of supply to the communities. That is why we have taken down some 127 barangay checkpoints put up along the entire stretch of the Pan-Philippine Highway from North to South Luzon,” he said.
Police intervention operations in support of the Department of Trade and Industry and local government units (LGUs) to stabilize market forces by preventing artificial shortage due to hoarding and over-pricing due to profiteering and price manipulation.
“We have, in fact, closed down several retail outlets and even online sellers of medical supplies that violated DOH (Department of Health) and DTI regulations. We are continuously monitoring the activities of more,” he said.
He also warned agitators and organizers of illegal mass actions, noting that “disobedience to lawful orders of persons in authority will be dealt with squarely without compromise”.
Gamboa said the government has assured the quick delivery of PHP200-billion social amelioration package through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which prioritizes those in dire need and marginalized sectors affected by the quarantine.
“Order, safety and compliance (with) guidelines (of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) shall be the primary considerations for the efficient and systematic distribution process. This should be communicated effectively with the recipients only by authorized government communicators to frustrate the agenda of the purveyors of fake news,” he said. (PNA)