INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año has sued a Cebu City-based netizen for violation of the cybercrime law and for alleged inciting to sedition after supposedly spreading on social media platforms the fake news quoting the Cabinet official as advising couples to practice social distancing after sex amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Jonathan Malaya, undersecretary and spokesman of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), said Año charged 26-year old Gabriel Marvin Cabier before the Quezon City Prosecutors Office on August 20 for violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code (unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances) in relation to Section 6 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175), and Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code (inciting to sedition) as amended by Presidential Decree 1974 also in relation to RA 10175.
The PNP has identified Cabier to be the author of the Facebook post that went viral last month, which had Año’s picture attached to a text that stated: “Yowooo na! Wala na jud ko kasabot aning kalakihan ani man jud ni padong ba… Feel nako ang neurons anis utok nag social distancing na pud ba hays (I do not understand what this man is thinking. I think he has lost his mind for saying that after sex, they [couples] should also practice social distancing so that they won’t get COVID).”
“DILG Secretary Año has offi cially lodged a case against the person who the spread malicious and wrong information that quoted him as telling couples to practice physical distancing after sex,” said Malaya, adding: “The filing of the complaint serves as a reminder for everyone to be responsible in posting messages in social media. Let’s utilize this for good especially since we are facing an intense crisis.”
Malaya reminded the public that an individual’s freedom of expression is not absolute, especially if it practiced to distort facts.
“This freedom cannot be used to spread fake news or to dish out disinformation,” he said. Malaya warned those who spread similar fake news will be held criminally liable.
“We pushed through with the filing of criminal cases as a warning to all would-be perpetrators of fake news to think twice before they do something similar. We will prosecute him (Cabier) to the fullest extent of the law. This is wrong and it should not be tolerated,” he said.
Malaya said it is unfortunate that some people have wasted their time and energy to spread fake news amid the pandemic and sow disinformation to malign people, including Año.
“We urge these people to use their creative minds instead on how they can complement the efforts of the government in spreading the right information and helping those in need,” Malaya said.