MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday reiterated its warning to prosecute those found spreading false information online relating to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
NBI Cybercrime Division Chief, Atty. Victor Lorenzo repeated the warning during an interview at UNTV’s Serbisyong Bayanihan program hosted by Daniel Razon, which tackles various concerns of the public amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
During the program, a complainant named Carissa Ann Rodriguez, a resident of Barangay 591 in Manila asked for help after her neighbors posted false information along with her photo on Facebook, alleging that she is infected with coronavirus.
“Kahihiyan po talaga, kasi kumalat po eh, may picture po at may mukha po talaga buong picture ko po tapos ang nakalagay po kasi “mag-ingat sa taong ‘to pagala-gala nanghahawa, positive COVID-19 victim siya tumakas siya sa ospital,” she recounted.
She said she no longer ventures outside of her home as she was deeply embarrassed by the incident even if it was not true.
Lorenzo said the NBI has been receiving and investigating similar complaints as part of the government’s campaign against the spread of fake news, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The NBI is going after misinformation online pursuant to Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code or the Unlawful Use of Means of Publication in relation to the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The recently-signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act also provides a fine of P1 million and up to 12 years imprisonment for purveyors of false information.
“Yung sa article 154 kasi publication ng false news ‘yun na may tendency to endanger public order tulad nyan pag sinabi mo na sa isang barangay may infected na talagang medyo magpa-panic yung mga tao doon sa barangay,” he said.
“At the same time, sa Bayanihan Act naman ay pwedeng may violation kasi yung publication ng fake news nagkakaroon ng chaos at the same time disturbance sa public,” he added.
Through UNTV’s Serbisyong Bayanihan program, Carissa was able to file a complaint against those who spread misinformation against her.
Lorenzo said other victims of false information on social media platforms may also lodge their complaint to the NBI via its online channels as they encourage social distancing amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“Because of the incident now yung crisis natin ina-avoid natin yung contact, pinapayagan namin sila mag-file ng formal request for investigative assistance,” he said.
“Kung kailangan talaga makipag-coordinate sa amin ang Facebook o kami ang makipag-coordinate sa Facebook, at least official yung communication namin sa kanila,” he added.
Lorenzo also called on others who became a subject of fake news to come forward and file a complaint to help authorities stop the deliberate spread of misinformation amid the public health crisis. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Casin)