By Genalyn Kabiling
Fake news peddlers beware.
The government has warned the public it will impose the “maximum penalty” against any person or group crafting and spreading false information while the country is under a state of calamity.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the country’s law enforcement agencies are committed to run after the sources of false information.
Nograles made the statement after rejecting rumors about the alleged imminent nationwide lockdown that supposedly includes the shutdown of public markets.
“Warning lang namin sa mga nagpapakalat ng fake news at gumagawa ng fake news — alam ninyo po, sa panahong ito na state of calamity, ang pinaka-maximum penalty ang puwedeng isampa sa inyo,” he said during the “Laging Handa” public briefing on state-run People’s Television network Monday.
(We are warning those spreading and making fake news — you know, In this tstate of calamity, the maximum penalty can be imposed on you.)
“Ang ating Philippine National Police cyber crime unit, ang ating NBI, pati na rin CIDG ay nakatutok sa lahat ng mga nagkapapakalat at gumagawa ng fake news,” he said.
(Our Philippine National Police-cyber crime unit, the National Bureau of Investigation, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group are tracing all those spreading and making fake news.)
“Kung ako sa inyo ay tigilan ninyo ‘yan. Hindi kayo nakakatulong sa bayan.” (If I were you, I’d stop that. You are not helping the country.)
Nograles branded “fake news” the rumors online that the government will supposedly impose a lockdown throughout the country to counter the spread of the coronavirus.
The message circulating online claimed that an alleged “nationwide lockdown” will include wet markets as well as food rationing every three weeks.
“Pinapalabas diumano na magkakaroon daw ng lockdown sa lahat ng markets, supermarkets, at groceries at sinasabihin ang ating lahat ng kababayan na bumili na good for one week or two weeks. Fake news po,” he said.
(It is being claimed that there will be a lockdown on markets, supermarkets, and groceries and that the public should buy supplies good for one week or two weeks. That’s fake news.)
Earlier in the day, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea lashed out at those spreading fake news, saying they should be “disinfected.” He said they were “now moving faster than the virus itself.”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has also appealed to the public to reject false information. “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.”
In 2017, the President signed Republic Act No. 10951, imposing higher penalties for offenses listed in the Revised Penal Code. The amendments include a penalty of imprisonment for up to six months and a fine of up to ₱200,000 (US$3,910) for spreading false news.
All such crimes and offenses penalized by the Revised Penal Code are also covered by Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2011, provided that the penalty to be imposed shall be one degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code.