Cebu optometrist who spread fake news on virus charged

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    THE PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group has filed charges against a Cebu-based optometrist who spread fake news about the novel corona virus on social media, causing panic in the province.

    PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac yesterday said the Central Visayas regional Anti-Cybercrime unit has filed charges against Josephil Brian Consuelo, alias CJ Brian Consuelo, an optometrist in Mandaue City.

    Consuelo was investigated for a message he supposedly posted on his Facebook account, claiming a COVID 2019-stricken patient died at the University of Cebu Medical Center.

    “Acting upon on the incident, Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit 7 (Central Visayas) conducted fact-checking and validated information and found out that the reports were proven to be false by UCMed’s Human Resource and Legal Officer,” Banac said.

    Banac said Consuelo was arrested last February 13 and charged in court for violating Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, in relation to Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

    A person found guilty of violating RA 10175 can be imprisoned for up to eight years and fined up to P200,000.

    Last week, the Department of Interior and Local Government said the PNP is looking into six fake news (reports) about the virus on social media and “we expect arrests to be made soon.”

    PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said the PNP-ACG will continue to take countermeasures against misinformation through cyber patrol operations and monitoring on all social media platforms.

    “Again, we urge the public to refrain posting unverified information that creates panic and confusion and we will file criminal charges those proven spreading these false reports,” Gamboa said.