CABINET Secretary Karlo Nograles on Monday said the maximum penalty would be imposed on persons spreading false information about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the Luzon-wide lockdown.
Nograles, during the “Laging Handa” briefing in Malacañang, denied reports that President Duterte is mulling a nationwide lockdown and that the public should stock up on food and other basic items that would last for weeks supposedly because supermarkets, groceries, and drugstores would be locked down.
One supposed official advisory said: “Malacañang will announce that there will be a nationwide lockdown to include all wet markets to stop people from going about… food will be rationed every three days. That’s why here in Manila they’re distributing passes. Advise to stock food for two weeks. Covid is very serious and does not spare anyone.”
“Fake news, fake news, fake news, all of it. And a warning against those spreading fake news and behind the fake news, at this time that there is calamity, the maximum penalty is likely to be imposed on you),” Nograles said in a mix of Filipino and English.
The penalty for spreading false information is imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of up to P200,000.
Nograles said the National Bureau of Investigations, the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group, and the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group are looking into those behind the spread of false information. The PNP is validating at least six social media posts containing “fake news.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, echoed Nograles’ warning as he urged the public not to easily believe reports.
“We appeal to our countrymen not to listen to any false news or untrue information designed not only to mislead but also to create panic and anxiety,” Panelo said.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the government has launched another social media website about the COVID-19, where the public could get correct information about the disease, government guidelines and actions taken about the pandemic, along with speeches and public address of the President in connection with the COVID-19.
The website, www.covid19.gov.ph, is part of the government efforts to counter “fake news” about the COVID-19 situation in the country.
Sen. Christopher Go, former special aide to President Duterte, slammed those who are spreading the false information as he said these only add up confusion and stress amid trying times.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday said the persistent proliferation of false information nowadays is far worse than the spread of COVID-19.
He said the public must check the source of information they receive and get information only from official government channels, websites, and social media pages and established media organizations and other legit organization. — with Raymond Africa