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PNP unit on cyberspace patrol to go after those spreading fake news on COVID-19

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By Mike Crismundo 

CAMP COL RAFAEL C. RODRIGUEZ, Butuan City – The Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit (RACU) 13 on Saturday has been instructed to intensify its cyberspace patrol, and go after websites and social media accounts being used for spreading false or fake information on Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19).

The RACU 13 was also directed to immediately file charges against those monitored and caught spreading fake news that may cause public panic and misinformation amid the global health crisis.

PNP Caraga Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) Director Brig. Gen. Joselito T. Esquivel, Jr. warned individuals found openly spreading fake news and disinformation on COVID-19 that they could face charges for violating Presidential Decree 90 “Declaring Unlawful Rumor-Mongering and Spreading False Information”, in relation to Republic Act 10175 or the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012”.

“Spreading fake or false information carries the penalty of imprisonment from six months and one day to six years,” stressed the region’s top police official, in a statement.

Esquivel pointed out that individuals or groups that are traced and proven to be spreading false information or fake news about COVID-19 will be immediately stopped and charges will be filed against them appropriately.

Spreading lies on the dreaded disease would only cause panic among the people, he said, adding, it would not help the efforts being done by government agencies, local government units, and other stakeholders.

The region’s top police official urged Caraganons not to entertain any ‘unfounded or imaginable stories’ instead listen to legitimate sources of information such as Department of Health (DOH) and other concerned government agencies.

He encouraged the general public to get information and updates on COVID-19 from the website of the DOH.

“Do not entertain and spread unverified information about COVID-19 from the Internet and the social media,” Esquivel said.

Other law enforcement agencies are now closely coordinating for innovative effort in preventing fake news in relation to COVID-19.

“In this time of medical crisis, it is best to help each other to prevent and combat the dreaded disease,” Esquivel added.

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