THE House of Representatives on Thursday warned individuals behind a fake Twitter account that used the chamber’s official seal that it will pursue and prosecute them for sowing fear, confusion, and panic.
Malacañang, meanwhile, urged the public anew to be more discerning as it denied reports that President Duterte had been confined at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City.
“We wish to inform the public that such information is absolutely false. The President is fit and healthy and is currently doing his presidential duties at his official residence at the Bahay Pagbabago,” said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman.
Duterte is on self-quarantine until April 7, following exposure to government officials who had contact with persons who tested positive for COVID-19.
House Secretary General Jose Luis G. Montales identified the impostor account as @house_files which posted false reports alleging that the House was drafting a recommendation for Malacañang to declare martial law and that government will cite the ongoing public health crisis to justify the declaration.
The suspect account later changed its handle to @congresstita but the earlier posts remained. However, as soon as initial reports came out that the Lower House intends to seek legal action, the account was deactivated.
Montales vowed to bring the full force of the law to bear against those who used the House seal to spread fake news adding that it has sought the help of cybercrime investigators.
“The House is closely coordinating with authorities to identify the perpetrators behind this malicious Twitter account. We shall prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Montales added that the acts were deliberate and designed to arouse public anger against the House and its members.
“These acts clearly violate RA No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act of 2020 and RA No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012,” he said.
RA 11469 imposes imprisonment of up to two months or fines of up to P1 million fine or both on those who are found guilty of posting fake news on social media platforms.
The House official clarified that the official Twitter account of the House of Representatives is @HouseofRepsPH.
Panelo branded as “fake” reports that the Office of the Civil Defense has been tapped to consolidate and manage the receipt and distribution of donated medical supplies and equipment, which will be used for COVID efforts, to be able to give Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go credit for it.
Panelo said President Duterte issued Administrative Order No. 27 to task the OCD to consolidate, make an inventory of, allocate, and distribute donated medical supplies and products to enable the Department of Health to focus on its work of attending to the country’s overall health campaign.
Panelo said DOH also has limited personnel and access to transport vehicles and OCD, with the assistance of the Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and his department, have the discipline, the personnel and the transport facilities to effect their deliveries to all the hospitals in the shortest possible time.
He denied talks the donations were consolidated at the OCD to be able to release those under Go’s name later.
He also dismissed as “untrue news” the reports that imported medical and health items that arrived in the country, also through donation, are put on hold at the Bureau of Customs until Go’s name has been stamped on the packages.
“The spread of these fake information is malicious and obviously done by the negative forces and detractors of the Duterte administration and its allies, designed to create confusion and foment hate against the government,” he said.
“The Palace asks netizens to be circumspect in reading text messages or posts they see in their social media feeds. Re-posting or spreading them by word of mouth make them similarly liable for transgression of the law,” he added.
Go on Wednesday night slammed purveyors of fake news.
“Let me state this is very clear and unmistakable language: Claims circulating that I am involved in handling donations intended for government are utterly false, deliberate disinformation and back propaganda,” Go said.
He said his Senate office acts as a bridge between the private sector and the public or private agencies which can respond to their needs.
He said in this time of crisis, several private donors sought his help as to where they can donate food packs and medical equipment, among others, which he said is acted upon by his staff members.
He said while the President instructed the Office of the Civil Defense to take charge in consolidating donations of medical supplies and equipment intended for the Department of Health and the national government, to his understanding, this does not prevent others from donating to any institution if they so wish.
Go also belied reports he is seeking for a higher office in the 2022 elections.
He again appealed to concerned individuals to stop spreading fake news which he said adds up to the confusion.
“In this time of crisis, if you cannot help, just quarantine your mouth,” he added. — With Jocelyn Montemayor and Raymond Africa