By Raymund Antonio
A day after President Duterte signed a measure that punishes those who spread fake news about the coronavirus disease, police on Wednesday arrested a village watchman in Cabanatuan City for allegedly committing such offense.
According to Palayan City, Nueva Ecija Mayor Adrianne Mae “Rianne” Cuevas, the arrest of the village watchman came after he was found spreading false report of a COVID-19 case in the city that triggered panic among residents.
In a report from Palayan police chief Renato Morales, the suspect, identified as Vener Cortez, 42, a resident of Barangay Cabu, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, was arrested at 2:30 p.m.
Cuevas said Cortez posted on his Facebook page unverified reports that Palayan has a confirmed COVID-19 case.
In his post, Cortez even warned the residents to be careful to avoid contracting the infectious disease.
“Mga kababayan kong taga Cabu may nag-positive na po sa Palayan City ng coronavirus. Kaya po mag-ingat tayo sa pakikipaghalubilo sa mga taong hindi natin kakilala,” a portion of his post read.
(My fellow citizens from Cabu, someone has tested positive for conoravirus in Palayan City. That’s why we have to be careful of mingling with people we don’t know.)
The mayor belied the reports, saying their city is still COVID-19-free.
“Walang pong katotohanan ang ipinakalat ni Vener Cortez kaya siya ay ipinaaresto. Magsilbing aral sana ito sa lahat sa pagpapakalat ng fake news,” Cuevas said.
(There is no truth to what Vener Cortez is spreading so he was arrested. May this serve as a lesson to everyone.)
Cuevas added they will file appropriate charges against Cortez to avoid a repeat of the incident.
Under the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” signed by Duterte on Tuesday (March 25), any person who spreads fake news about COVID-19 may be slapped with a fine of up to P1 million or a jail time of two months.