PRO-7 warns vs spread of fake news amid pandemic
CEBU, April 29 (PIA) — As more and more people turn to social media as a major platform to get the latest information on relevant issues amid the global pandemic, government authorities issued a stern warning against the spread of unverified news as the law exempts no one.
Police Major Gerard Ace Pelare of the Police Regional Office (PRO-7) revealed that cases have been filed against eight suspects in Cebu for spreading false information causing undue panic in the community as the country grapples to address the health emergency.
“Out of the eight, we have arrested two suspects,” said Pelare, adding that majority of the suspects are females.
Two of the suspects included a lawyer and a businesswoman, said Pelare who is also a lawyer and the chief of the Talisay City Police Office in Cebu province.
The spread of fake and alarming information is sanctioned under Section 6 of the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act or RA 11469 with penalties ranging from two-month imprisonment to P10,000 up to P1 million fine.
Pelare said the arrested culprits have since filed bail but the court battle will continue.
Aside from charging the suspects in violation of the Bayanihan Act, other related laws that will apply against the suspects in spreading falsehoods are RA 10951 and Presidential Decree 90.
The police official stressed that spreading false information is not helping address the pandemic but rather aggravate the already problematic situation.
“Let us use social media wisely and post only verified information that can help ease the already difficult situation we are in under a state of public health emergency,” said Pelare.
Pelare said the elements to categorize fake news are the following: 1) an individual or culprit 2) the individual is spreading or perpetuating false information or fake news in social media 3) the intent is to create chaos or panic and 4) the information is related to Covid-19.
Apart from social media, the police can also trace the spread of fake news in group chats, Pelare said.
There is also a trend of fake or unverified information rapidly spreading in group chats which is not exempted, he said.
Under the Bayanihan Act, the Philippine National Police has been tasked to go after those that perpetuate in spreading fake or unverified information especially in social media.
Regional Director Marlou Salazar of the Office of Civil Defense 7, on the other hand, said in these challenging times with no certainty on when this will finally end, “we can help our community by spreading only the right information.”
“We need to fight this invisible enemy as an individual, as a family, as a community, as one agency and as one nation so we can beat COVID-19 and easily transition to the new normal,” said Salazar, who is also the co-chair of the Inter-Agency Task Group on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases-Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council 7. (fcr/PIA7)