Jail time, up to ₱1-M fine await peddlers of fake COVID-19 news

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 24) — Those who spread fake COVID-19 news may soon part with their screens, land themselves in jail and face a whopping ₱1-million fine.

The law which grants President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to solve the COVID-19 crisis also contains a provision which punishes those who create or spread false information about the crisis with a two-month jail sentence or a fine of ₱10,000 to ₱1 million.

False information about COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly online, leading authorities to crack down on some of its alleged perpetrators.

In October 2017, Duterte said that a law against fake news would be unconstitutional as it can curtail freedom of speech.

However, Malacañang in September 2017 said a provision in the Revised Penal Code can punish the spreading of false news that can endanger the public with imprisonment for up to six months and a fine of up to ₱200,000.

The Philippine National Police also said that the Cybercrime Prevention Act can also be used to prosecute those who spread false information about COVID-19.

Other people who could face a two-month jail sentence or a fine of ₱10,000 to ₱1 million include online fraudsters, hoarders and price gougers.

Also facing the same punishment are local government officials who disobey the national government’s policies, owners of private hospitals who refuse to operate according to the directive of Duterte, and businesses who refuse to accept contracts for materials and services needed in the government’s response to COVID-19.

Over 500 people in the Philippines have contracted COVID-19, with 35 fatalities to date. A total of 20 people have already recovered from the disease.