February 1, 2023

Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo M. Año yesterday ordered the Philippine National Police to investigate and arrest those spreading false information about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“We will go after the perpetrators of false information on coronavirus because their acts are inimical to the interest of the general public,” Año said.
“We need to put a stop to their nuisance activity. Let’s not propagate erroneous information that is more viral than the virus itself. We already have enough on our plate. Hindi po sila nakakatulong sa paglutas ng ating problema bagkus mas pinapalala pa nila ang problema,” he added.
He said the PNP would not hesitate to put behind bars all individuals or groups who are guilty of spreading false information on the issue on various social media platforms.
“Freedom of expression has limitations, especially when its exercise threatens the welfare of the public. We must put an end to misinformation on social media. Kaya sa mga sinasadyang magpakalat ng misinformation, stop now before we lock you up,” Año warned.
DILG Spokesperson and Usec. Jonathan Malaya said that the DILG was a victim of false news when an infographic allegedly coming from the DILG was created and distributed alleging that the Department has decided to place on mandatory quarantine all travelers from 23 countries with confirmed Covid-19 cases.
“The unauthorized and patently illegal infographic went viral and caused panic among travelers who wanted to cancel their travel plans because of the misrepresentation of these people. It has become absurd and worrisome,” he said.
“We urge the public to trust only official sources of information and to verify first before sharing. Think first before you click,” he added.
He said that the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG), which investigates crimes using information and communications technology, is capable of tracing and tracking fake news perpetrators on the Internet. It is currently verifying six suspected false posts on the coronavirus on social media.
“The PNP-ACG is working hard to detect the whereabouts of these law offenders. We expect arrests to be made soon,” said Malaya.
He said that Article 154 on the “Unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances” of the Revised Penal Code punishes perpetrators of misinformation.
The same provision penalizes a person who causes the publication of any false news which may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State. Violators face imprisonment of one to six months and a fine ranging from P40,000 to P200,000.
They could also be punished under the Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
“These laws are created for a reason – to punish offenders,” said Malaya. – DILG release